December 3, 2013

HOROWITZ | Just Behave, Kidd

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The 2013-14 season was supposed to be a break-out party for the new-look Brooklyn Nets. Brooklyn acquired the dangerous Boston duo of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and with a cast already including stars like Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, the Nets looked like they were in position to be one of the NBA’s elite teams. All they needed was a coach to bring it all together. So they turned to Jason Kidd, a terrific point guard with 19 years of playing experience. Just one week after he officially retired from the NBA following his 2012-13 season with the Knicks, Kidd was hired as head coach of the Nets.

It was an attractive move for many reasons. Kidd played for the Nets, then in New Jersey, for seven of the prime seasons in his career. In his first season, he led the Nets to their first 50 win season in franchise history, a 26 win improvement over the previous year. That stellar first year culminated in a trip to the NBA finals, the first in Nets history. Though they didn’t win the title, Kidd had taken the Nets from mediocrity to excellence. They again reached the finals the following season, the highest scoring season of Kidd’s career.

Kidd was the outright team leader, the face of the franchise. He was a duel threat on the court, able to score from anywhere and able to set up any of his teammates. He wasn’t the fastest or tallest, but he was a uniquely smart player with great vision and a great sense for the game. He is one of the best players who has ever played for the Nets, without question. Kidd moved on from the Nets in the latter part of his career, and finally won a championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. The Nets recently retired his number, saluting him as one of the best players in Nets history.

The Nets think that Kidd’s fantastic playing career will translate into being a great coach, one that can put all of the star pieces together to produce a championship team. His superior understanding of the game may help the team play smart, winning basketball. Kidd’s genius on the offensive side of the ball and his ability to bring out the best in his teammates may help him encourage each of Brooklyn’s offensive stars to release their full potential.

However, there has always been a darker story unfolding in Kidd’s off-court life. In 2001, he was arrested and pleaded guilty to physically abusing his wife Joumana. She also accused him of frequently cheating on her and emotionally abusing her. Kidd claims that Joumana was also abusive to him. Although he attended anger management classes as a punishment for the crime, Kidd couldn’t hold the marriage together. He and Joumana ended their marriage in a messy divorce with their three kids caught in the middle.

In July of 2012, after he had signed with the Knicks, Kidd was arrested for drunk driving after he crashed his car into a telephone pole at 2 a.m. in Southampton, N.Y. He pleaded guilty to the charge and was suspended by the NBA for the first two games of this season. Not exactly a great way to begin a coaching career.

The start to the Nets’ season has not gone as planned. In fact, it has been nothing short of dreadful. They lost 10 out of their first 13 games and are currently the third worst team in the Eastern Conference with a record of 5-12. There is still time, to turn things around, but the Nets management had high expectations for this season, and corrective moves will be made if Kidd can’t right the ship.

In a recent loss to the Lakers, with the Nets down by two points with 8.3 seconds remaining and no timeouts, Kidd instructed one of his players to intentionally bump into him so that he could spill his soda and stop the game in time for the Nets to diagram a play for their final possession. When the NBA looked at the video and saw Kidd clearly saying “hit me” to second year guard Tyshawn Taylor, Kidd was leveled with a 50,000 dollar fine for the deceptive action. Even in the game itself, Kidd got what he deserved, as the Nets still failed to score on their last possession and lost the game.

Immediately after the game, Kidd denied that he intentionally spilled the soda, instead attributing it to “sweaty palms.” Only after the NBA announced the fine did Kidd admit to intentionally spilling the soda in order to buy time for the Nets to design a play.

This type of behavior is inappropriate for any person, let alone a famous NBA coach. It’s time for Kidd to pull himself together and gain a sense of honesty, rather than denying every mistake that he makes. He was a great player and has the potential to be a great coach — the Nets’ poor performance isn’t even entirely his fault. However, he needs to come clean, apologize for all of his past blunders, and start living up to the standard of behavior and sportsmanship that fans rightfully demand. If he does, he can be a role model for aspiring young point guards for years to come.