Monday, December 2, 2013

Should Coach Jason Kidd be Fired?

After an individually terrible performance and a disappointing loss to the Indiana Pacers, Jason Kidd decided to leave the Knicks and retire. Shortly after the Knicks were ousted, rumors began to circulate quickly that Jason Kidd was the front-runner for the head coaching job of the Brooklyn Nets. With help from super-agent Jeff Schwartz, Kidd signed on as the new coach for the Nets. Clearly the hiring deserved its mass amount of speculation; Kidd had become one of the few coaches in NBA history to go straight from the NBA to the pros without any time in between. The hiring was particularly surprising given that the Nets roster was in a win-now mode. With veterans such as Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and upcoming center Brook Lopez, it was evident that this team was in need of a leader who was ready to lead and not ready to learn how to lead.

Now let's fast forward a month later. On Thursday, June 27th, while some of the best college and international players were drafted in Kidd's new home arena, the Barclays Center, the Nets managed to steal the show. Though Mason Plumlee was picked, the Nets swung a trade that mortgaged their future in order to make themselves an instant contender. The Nets traded Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Marshon Brooks and their 2014, 2016, and 2018 first round picks for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry. In the minds of most NBA fans, the Nets went from an above average team, to a team that has the capability to make a deep run in the playoffs. The Nets eventually topped off their flashy off season by signing forward and defensive specialist Andrei Kirilenko.

Let's now fast forward to December 2nd, 2013. The Nets are currently 5-12, in the basement of the Eastern Conference and the team looks abysmal. Many people can say that they're off to this start due to chemistry, injuries and underproduction. It is true that Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Andrei Kirilenko, three of the "younger" pieces on this team have been injured. It is also a fact that it takes time for teams to gel. It's also statistically proven that Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are shells of themselves. However, all the excuses can be made, but at the end of the day this team is 5-12 and doesn't seem to be improving.

With arguably the best starting 5 in the NBA, on paper, a record of 5-12 is not going to cut it. The injuries and the chemistry cannot be used as an excuse because the season goes on. No one cares that there are injuries. Every team experiences injuries and what makes a coach great, is if he can adapt to the adversity that his team and roster go through. The Nets obviously have had critical injuries, no one would deny that. No one would reject that their record would be better if Deron Williams didn't miss all of the pre-season and if Brook Lopez and Andrei Kirilenko were healthy. At the end of the day though, this team still has the pieces to beat up on the worst teams in the league. The Nets have gotten beaten down by teams such as the Kings, the Lakers, the Wizards, the Cavaliers, the Magic and the Bobcats. These are teams that even with a starting five of Livingston, Johnson, Pierce, Garnett and Blatche, that the Nets should beat. We are talking about teams that were supposed to be hunting for Wiggins and Jabari Parker at the beginning of this season. Now, these supposed lottery teams are running right through the Nets.

The other argument that will be made to defend Kidd is that he is still learning how to be a coach. This is where Kidd's firing should appear inevitable. With an aging roster that needs to win now, there is no time to learn how to coach. Kevin Garnett has one more year left on his contract after this year and Paul Pierce will be a free agent come next summer. Andrei Kirilenko and Andray Blatche are also free agents after this year. This team is not just in win-now mode, they are in win-right now mode. A lot of these players know how to win and they need a coach who can make the slight adjustments to win those nail biters. The Nets don't need a coach who is still completely learning on the spot and feels the need to spill his drink in order to gain an extra timeout against a Kobe and Nash-less Lakers.

It would be one thing if the Nets underwent a hard schedule and were losing to very good teams, but they are losing to everyone. They needed a Joe Johnson buzzer beater to beat the Phoenix Suns and they blew a 15 point lead against the Toronto Raptors and barely squeaked by. Kidd is not only learning on the spot, he is making bad decisions in this learning process. Kidd took out a lineup that helped give him a 15 point lead against the Raptors and he handed it back to the starters which blew the lead. Additionally, for a player that was as creative as him, his offense is as stagnant as any team's offense in basketball. There are no easy baskets and there are no fast break points. This team lives and dies by the jump shot and when it's not falling they get blown out. Every single Net play feels like isolation basketball just like last year.

It is undeniable that a move of some sort is necessary. The Nets are one of the worst teams in basketball with one of the most talented rosters in basketball. By this equation, the logic just does not add up. Which is what brings me to my final point about why Kidd should be fired: The team plays with no heart. Whether this is because KG and Pierce have lost it or if it is because Kidd has no idea how to lead, the team needs a change. The team needs someone or something to be done that will light a fire underneath the butts of the 15 players on this roster. The Nets play with no sense of urgency and moreover are flat out lazy. They never get to a loose ball and their defense above all is absolutely horrific. The Nets, as stated in a previous post, are one of the worst defenders of 3 point shots. That is simply indicative of the lazy and slow team that shows up day in and day out. We are now a fifth through the season and the Nets are on pace to win one in every four games that they play.

So, what are the options? Well, the Nets could continue with what they have going and see if they can turn it around or they can make a serious change, cut their losses and hire a real NBA coach. Jeff Van Gundy or Lionel Hollins would be perfect fits for this team. They each will get the immediate respect of the players and they are both proven winners in the NBA as coaches. To say that they shouldn't give up on Kidd because of the amount of money they spent on him and his assistants is ridiculous. Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov has proven, through the roster he has assembled, that money means nothing to him and that winning is everything. To say that the Nets do not want to embarrass Kidd by not giving him a fair shot is also ludicrous. By becoming a coach in the NBA, specifically for a team in New York, specifically for a team in win-now mode, the criteria is different. There is no waiting, there is no patience and the idea of respect has to be ignored.

Let's all remember that Magic Johnson tried coaching for the Lakers, they were terrible and he stepped down after only 16 games. The Lakers were 5-11 before he departed. Magic Johnson and Jason Kidd are both two of the greatest point guards in NBA history who had the opportunity to coach the teams they starred on, and failed. Kidd, step down.

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