• Alder Almo

Has Jason Kidd Grown Up?

Has Jason Kidd grown up enough to coach this Knicks team?

Jason Kidd was an All-Star playmaker for nearly two decades in the NBA. But he was 38 years old when he won his first ring.

Kidd’s uncanny court vision and tenacious rebounding made him a triple-double machine. For most of his career, however, he wasn’t much of a shooter. As he told ESPN’s The Jump, finding his stroke was critical for prolonging his days as a pro.

“When I was in New Jersey (Nets), we got Vince (Carter) and I was a little bit older and slower and they took me off the ball. And I had the question of ‘how do you stay in the league?’ And if you’re not gonna be a point guard who has the ball, you’ll slowly be out and before you know it, your career is over. So I worked extremely hard shooting a lot of threes,”

Adapt or die.

Kidd had no choice. When he returned to Dallas in 2008, he knew he needed to change his game. In 2011, he became the oldest starting point guard with a championship winning team.

As a player, the three-point shot became his salvation. But as a coach, his refusal to use that weapon became his damnation.

In his last coaching gig, the Milwaukee Bucks never finished higher than 24th in three-point attempts in the league. His defensive schemes became outdated as the NBA shifted into the pace-and-space era. Despite having Giannis Antetokounmpo in his employ, the Bucks failed to protect the rim while simultaneously giving up more corner threes than any other team. The adaptive thinking he showed as a pro was absent.

In his time in the NBA - despite some stubbornness on the sideline - Jason Kidd has been a catalyst for winning as a player and as a coach. He led the New Jersey Nets to two trips to the Finals. He helped the Mavs win a ring. Even in his final season, the Knicks won 54 games with Kidd around.

As a coach, he led the veteran-laden newly minted *Brooklyn* Nets to the second round of the playoffs. He transformed an irrelevant Bucks team into a perennial playoff contender. But there were some real lapses in judgment.

His departure from Brooklyn to Milwaukee was tumultuous. As was his time in Milwaukee. If Kidd wants another shot at a head coaching job, however, he’ll need to show more flexibility and growth.

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reported that the New York Knicks have focused in on Kidd as part of the team’s on-going search for its next head coach. Bondy reported the club has pivoted away from other big names like Tom Thibodeau.

The Knicks Front Office will need to evaluate whether or not Kidd has made the right growth, from an Xs and Os perspective, as well as interpersonally.

During his time as head coach of the Bucks, Kidd was stern. He pushed his young team. He was old-school. Here’s what he said of his philosophy in 2018:

"So, 'driving them hard?' I think, working. There's nothing wrong with work. If you want to be great, you have to work. If you want to be good, you have to work. If you want to just be average, or below average, then you don't have to work."

It wasn’t just Kidd’s hard-nosed attitude that led to his ouster in Milwaukee. That said, this is a new era where player management and growth looks different than it once did. Here’s Kidd just a few years later:

“You talk about having more fun. Not dying on each possession, because as a coach you live or die with each possession. I think you gotta be able to sit from afar and say hey kids are going to make mistakes and you gotta live with them. But to have that atmosphere where it’s fun, shoot a lot of threes, get stops late in the game and then go on to the next game.”

Perhaps a year away from basketball gave Kidd time to reflect. Now with Frank Vogel and the Lakers, Kidd is seeing first hand how a new generation of greatness operates. There’s a calm that was absent when Kidd was the one lacing up for games.

Kidd jumped right into coaching following his retirement as a player. It was a job he was learning on the fly, and one that often looks more like an HR executive than a basketball coach.

As an assistant coach in LA, Kidd has played his part helping the Lakers become the top team in the Western Conference, all without much drama. Perhaps Vogel’s collaborative leadership may have shown Kidd the path to adapt in the coaching world. It’s worth remembering that Kidd is a former point guard, after all.

"Sometimes people act like I never played a game and I've never been a teammate. I was a good teammate then, and I'm a good teammate now."

If Kidd does land the head coaching job in New York, things will be different. These Knicks are young, raw, and untested. Kidd would need to show chops as a coach he hasn’t before.

Mitchell Robinson has massive potential. RJ Barret and Kevin Knox could both become solid two-way players. Maybe Kidd can help Frank Ntilikina develop into a better point guard.

The Knicks core players are all in their early 20s, in a league that has fallen in love with analytics and distance shooting. Coaching this New York club would demand the best from Kidd.

‘How do you stay in the league?’

He knows the answer too well.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo