In his first season as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, Jason Kidd has shown a remarkable ability to mount a comeback from all manner of adversity. When Mikhail Prokhorov hired him as coach last spring just days after Kidd finished his playing career, many in the media thought Prokhorov had more money than sense. The horrible start to the season engendered further negative reaction to Kidd’s coaching acumen. No matter, Kidd has managed to push ahead and salvage a season that initially appeared lost.
The season began with Coach Kidd serving a league required two game suspension for a DUI incident. Many pundits were smelling blood in the water as the season started very poorly for the Nets. The team’s record stood at 10-21 at the end of December. Nothing seemed to work. While the team looked as if it needed a swift kick in the pants, Kidd sat stoically on the bench in loss after loss. His strategy appeared to be no strategy. Roll the balls out and let the guys play, similar to eighth grade gym class. Kidd even fired Lawrence Frank, a former NBA head coach, as his top assistant under “he said, he said” circumstances that looked at first glance like a former star player turned coach hissy fit. Many thought Frank would provide a lifeline for Kidd as the new head coach found his sea legs on the sideline instead of on the court.
To add to the sense of catastrophe, the team’s starting center, Brook Lopez, broke his foot in a season ending injury on December 20. Already mired in an early season slump, the season looked lost and Kidd’s coaching career done before it really even started. Something funny then happened with the start of 2014. The Nets, without their starting center, began winning games. Lots of them. The team has been the winningest squad in the Eastern Conference since the start of the new year. The Jason Kidd led Brooklyn Nets have mounted a strong comeback to the early season adversity.
Maybe we should have ignored the early season struggles with a roster featuring Deon Williams, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson and Andrei Kirilenko. Further, the team receives solid contributions from Shaun Livingston, himself the ultimate comeback kid as he has remade his game after a devastating knee injury. In any event, Kidd acknowledges that the team has turned around from the time Lopez went down. The coach resorted to a smaller lineup and the players responded. Kidd understands now that the “feed the post first” approach did not work. Paul Pierce has even played some power forward as a stretch four. The team is playing more freely now, matching their talents instead of feeding the ball to Lopez.
Out of adversity comes inspiration and the Nets certainly had their share of the former. Since the time of the Lopez injury, Jason the Comeback Kidd has been named Coach of the Month twice and the Brooklyn Nets are gearing up for the playoffs. This scenario appeared unthinkable at the start of 2014. If nothing else, Kidd is resilient and will not let challenges get him down.
Commentary by William Costolo