No playoffs? Jason Kidd nearing unfamiliar territory with Bucks

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NEW YORK –- It’s been a long time since Jason Kidd has had a basketball-free spring.

Kidd has made the postseason as a player or coach every season since the 1996-97 season. But with 15 games remaining in the season after Sunday night’s game in Brooklyn, the Milwaukee Bucks are in danger of missing the playoffs.

If that happens, Kidd will see his streak of 19 straight postseasons -– 17 as a player and the past two as head coach of Brooklyn and Milwaukee –- snapped.

“It has been a while, maybe since my rookie season, that we are not involved in a race or playoffs,” said Kidd, who last did not make the playoffs in the 1995-96 season -- his second year with Dallas. “But there is a lot of stuff that as a coach you can get better at, that is the motivation, to get better as a coach and help the young guys develop and get better each time they take the floor.”

The Bucks are 5 1/2 games out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference after beating the Nets. Milwaukee was considered a team on the rise entering this season after losing to Chicago in the first round in six games last year.

With a young core featuring Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Khris Middleton and Greg Monroe, the Bucks appeared ready to take another step forward.

But Milwaukee has struggled with injuries (the Bucks dressed just 10 players against the Nets) and inconsistency. Kidd also had to have hip surgery in the middle of the season and missed 17 games.

“I think sometimes you have to take a step back to take two forward,” Kidd said of the Bucks’ struggles this season. “Right now, the guys are developing when you talk about Khris, Giannis and Jabari. They have come a long way since the beginning of training camp, and now it is just a matter of continuing to push and raise the bar to get better.”

Part of that development was putting the ball in Antetokounmpo and Parker’s hands more often. Parker scored in double figures for the 15th straight time on Sunday night. And Antetokounmpo has taken off after Kidd moved him to point guard.

After posting 28 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds against the Nets, the third-year Greek player now has four triple-doubles since Feb. 22. During that 10-game span entering Sunday, Antetokounmpo averaged 19.6 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.1 assists.

“I think he’s been off the charts,” Kidd said. “His growth, understanding at that position, he’s run with it. We spend a lot of time [and] he’s asked a lot of questions about the [point guard] position."

“He’s up for it,” Kidd continued. “He wants to be a leader, he wants to be the best. What he has done stat-wise since he has taken over at that position is off the charts.”