DALLAS – The Mavericks who earned championship rings figured it was just a matter of time for their former floor general.
Coach Jason Kidd, the former Mavs point guard who will be wearing a suit and no tie on the Brooklyn Nets’ bench Sunday night at the American Airlines Center, was considered a joke by many as 2013 came to an end. His sudden transition from old point guard to young head coach had been a train wreck, as the team with the highest payroll in NBA history was 10-21.
Since then, the Nets have the Eastern Conference’s best record at 26-10. The only West teams with better records in 2014 are Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs and Doc Rivers’ Los Angeles Clippers, squads with proven championship coaches.
“He’s doing a great job,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle told reporters after Saturday's practice. “One of the [hardest] things about coaching is being able to bring a team out of a tough period, and he’s been phenomenal. They are a very talented and well-coached team.”
“I knew it was bound to happen,” said Marion, who broke into the league with Kidd on the Phoenix Suns. “I take my hat off to that man. I started with him and I was fortunate enough to join back up with him and accomplish the goal we wanted to accomplish. I wish we could have gotten a couple more and it got cut off. At the same time, I wish him much success.
“He was an on-the-floor coach. I’m happy for him. I knew it was going to turn around up there.”
In his first season as a coach, Kidd has encountered major challenges in addition to dealing with high expectations in the nation’s biggest media market.
After making a blockbuster trade with the Boston Celtics to acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett (as well as since-departed former Mavs teammate Jason Terry), the Nets needed time to create chemistry, a period that was probably extended by Deron Williams’ injury issues. They lost starting center Brook Lopez for the season. At their advanced ages, Pierce and Garnett have durability issues, with Garnett now sidelined indefinitely due to back spasms.
“He’s been doing a heck of a job,” Nowitzki said of Kidd. “They’ve had some injury problems all season long. But they keep winning after a tough start. I think he looks comfortable over there. He’s enjoying it, so I’m happy for him.
“It’s early. In life, or any profession, you have to learn and get better. This is just the beginning for him. He’ll get more experience and be even better. But he’s got all the tools. He’s got a great mind for basketball. We knew that already while he was playing. He’s going to be a great coach in this league, I think.”