Jason Kidd is one of the greatest point guards in NBA history. Kidd, who ranks No. 2 on the league’s all-time assists list, is the best player to wear a Nets uniform since the franchise merged from the ABA to the NBA in 1976.
A former human highlight reel, Kidd reformed the culture of the hapless Nets in his playing days. The future Hall of Famer led the franchise to consecutive Finals appearances in 2002-2003.
Within weeks of calling it quits on his prolific 19-year career, Kidd was hired to coach the Brooklyn Nets (despite zero coaching experience) last summer on a four-year, $10.5 million contract.
The Nets entrusted Kidd to spearhead a roster with the highest payroll in NBA history – $100 million, plus $90 million more in luxury tax—that featured Hall of Famers’ Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, as well as All-Stars’ Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson.
The star-studded roster got off to an abysmal start to the season though, posting a 10-21 record as the 2013 calendar year commenced. Kidd and the Nets eventually turned things around, despite a season-ending foot injury to Lopez, registering 34 wins versus 17 losses to end the season with a 44-38 record.
Entering the postseason as the No. 6 seed in the historically weak Eastern Conference, the Nets were able to defeat the upstart Toronto Raptors in seven games, thanks to the clutch heroics of the age-defying Pierce. With the series victory, the Nets advanced to the second-round for the first time since the franchise moved to Brooklyn. The team would go no further in the postseason, though, after being dispatched in five games in the Conference Semifinals by the Miami Heat.
The general consensus was that Kidd’s first season was mediocre. Sure, he made a brilliant decision to insert Shaun Livingston into the starting lineup following Lopez’s injury. This shifted Pierce into the power forward position and Garnett to center, creating a highly effective unit that created matchups nightmares for the opposition. In particular, teams’ struggled to guard Pierce, who used his speed (diminishing, albeit) to drive past the power forwards’ guarding him.
The lineup switch, however, was the lone adjustment Kidd successfully made. His coaching deficiencies were exposed in the series against Miami. The Nets collapsed down the stretch in Games 2, 4 and most notably Game 5 of the series. Erik Spoelstra coached circles around Kidd, who was unable to put his team in proper position to execute in late-game situations. Kidd’s out-of-timeout plays often resulted in one-on-one situations that Joe Johnson failed to deliver.
A decent NBA coach would have at least pushed the Nets-Heat series to six games. A great coach may have helped the Nets push the Heat to seven games, or even win the series. But the Heat, coming off consecutive championships, exposed the Nets’ biggest flaw—the inexperienced Kidd.
Handed a win-now roster, Kidd failed to make the most off his team. Kidd never got the best out of point guard Deron Williams, who was a no-show in the 2014 playoffs. He barely let Garnett surpass the 20-minute mark in playing time throughout the postseason, despite management basically trading away the club’s future to acquire him and Pierce last offseason.
With just a year of head coaching under his belt, Kidd had the nerve to demand a promotion from ownership. In addition to coaching, Kidd wanted to become the overseer of basketball operations, placing him a title above current GM Billy King. The Nets’ ownership scoffed at Kidd’s ludicrous request, denying him the chance to supplant King.
The Nets did everything they could to keep Kidd happy this season, yet he still wanted more this offseason.
"Nothing was ever good enough for Jason," said one league source close to the situation, according to ESPN New York. "He always had to be appeased on personnel, and he would play Monday morning quarterback if it didn't work out. It was like a kid constantly asking for new toys to stay happy. ... If he doesn't get what he wants he sits in the corner and sucks his thumb and pouts until he gets it, and he doesn't care about the consequences."
The Nets appeased Kidd last offseason with the hire of Lawrence Frank as assistant head coach. King and owner Mikhail Prokhorov agreed to make Frank the league's highest-paid assistant, yet within weeks of the season were asked by Kidd to dump Frank. Kidd felt Frank overstepped his boundaries. He told management he would pay off the remainder of his Frank’s lucrative contract if the assistant was demoted. Kidd failed to deliver on that promise, forcing ownership to eat Frank’s contract before it was essentially even signed.
Turning a blind-eye on the soda-spilling incident (dubbed “sodagate”), the Nets’ brass was more than accommodating to Kidd. Yet Kidd could not how handle how former players’ Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher, neither of whom had any coaching experience, were handed hefty five-year, $25 million deals to coach the Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks, respectively.
After seeing Kerr and Fisher get paid much more than he did, Kidd thought it was fair to ask for general management duties.
"He wanted it all," one league source said, according to ESPN New York.
Kidd’s aggressive plea infuriated the Nets’ ownership.
"The Russians are done with Kidd," one high-ranking league source told Yahoo Sports.
Following Kidd’s failed power play with the Nets, he asked for—and was granted—permission to interview with the Milwaukee Bucks.
New Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry is reportedly close with Kidd after stints as a Nets minority owner and as Kidd’s financial adviser. The Bucks currently have a head coach in Larry Drew and a GM in John Hammond. However, the Bucks ownership seems willing to give Kidd the power he is looking for (which all but spells the end for Drew and Hammond).
The Bucks have already begun discussing compensation with the Nets so that they can release Kidd of his current contract. It is expected that the Bucks will surrender multiple second-round draft picks to the Nets in exchange for Kidd.
Taking on the Bucks head coaching job seems like a steep challenge for Kidd. If he could not get the best of Williams, Johnson, Pierce and Garnett, how will he handle the mess that is the Bucks roster? Outside of first-round pick Jabari Parker and the “Greek Freek” Giannis Antetokounmpo, there is nothing appealing about the Bucks, who finished with a league-worst 15-67 a season ago.
There is speculation that Kidd may begin his Bucks’ tenure as just the GM/team president.
“I can see Jason waiting until the Bucks are good enough, and then coaching them," said a source, according to ESPN New York.
The Bucks’ ownership is taking a severe risk if they decide to implement Kidd into general managing duties. The Nets took a gamble on Kidd and now look where they are—cap-strapped and facing the impending free agency of Pierce, the emotional leader of last year’s team.
Kidd left the Nets, a team that will in all likelihood reach the playoffs next season, after refusing to get his way. How long will it take for him to leave Milwaukee when his excessive demands are not met by the Bucks’ ownership? Time will only tell for Kidd, who has little chance of rebuilding the struggling Bucks franchise.