An inspired hire, Jason Kidd must prove he can be vocal leader for Nets
The Nets made an inspiring move in hiring Jason Kidd as coach. They needed someone like him because the Nets happened to be the least-inspired team of talent in the NBA this season.
The question that Kidd must answer now is this: How will he get his point across?
Kidd wasn't known as a vocal player. He was one of the league's greatest leaders, but he led by example. He was the one who played through agonizing injuries without talking about it. His style of leadership focused his teammates on the goals they needed to accomplish within the game, because once the game began nothing -- how you were feeling, the argument you had with a teammate or coach -- was as important as winning.
The issue for Kidd is whether he can find the words needed to inspire and explain what he needs from his players. He used to inspire with his actions. Now, instead of showing them how it is done, he must tell them.
One reason why Kidd was able to win his NBA championship in 2010-11 was because Tyson Chandler came to the Mavericks that year. Dirk Nowitzki and Kidd were the two most accomplished players in Dallas, but neither one was a big talker in the locker room. Chandler made a crucial difference because he was willing to confront teammates in a constructive way, to point out ways that he and they could do more to pull the team together. That was a strength the Mavericks had been lacking in previous years.
That run to the championship in Dallas raises two questions now for Kidd in Brooklyn. Who will police his locker room for him? Who will speak up and lead within the team? Right now there appear to be no candidates, based on the Nets' abysmal playoff experience against the undermanned Bulls. All the Nets needed was one explosive performance in Game 7 at home, but neither Deron Williams nor anyone else was able to find the passion to provide it.
If there is no inspired leadership within the team, then can Kidd find the words to provide leadership as coach? He's going to have to articulate his vision anyway, but the need for him to find the right words at the right time becomes more important when not one of your players is capable of doing it for you.
There is a lot of talk about the coaching success of former players like Doc Rivers and Mark Jackson, but does it really apply to the unusual case of Kidd in Brooklyn? No one was calling Rivers a success when he was fired in his fifth season with Orlando. It wasn't until his ninth season as a head coach that he won his first playoff series on his way to the 2007-08 championship in Boston. Rivers isn't defined as a former player anymore. He is a coach, through and through, who spent years paying dues to become the successful coach he is today, and to compare the situation of Kidd to Rivers is to sell Rivers short on the hard work and lessons he has learned over his coaching career.
One quality that links the cases of Rivers and Jackson is that they were both known as vocal players. They talked. A lot.
Kidd earned a reputation as a player for having difficult relationships with some of his coaches. No doubt, he and they had problems with communication.
I believe the Nets are going to respond positively to Kidd next season. They are going to play with newfound energy, and his presence and point of view are going to be celebrated from opening night.
At some point, however, there is going to be a crisis of some kind that will need to be addressed. Kidd will need to find the words to deal with the problem, to steer the issue and to convince the players to see things his way.
Every new coach has one or more matters of difficulty. No new coach arrives in the NBA without weaknesses that must be addressed and improved. Some who haven't played in the NBA must prove they can relate to the players. Some retired players must show they can break down the game technically and strategically, or that they can commit to the endless grinding hours of studying video and tendencies to come up with solutions for game after game after game.
For Kidd, the issue will be in finding ways to provide the leadership that has defined him. He is one of the great leaders the NBA has ever seen. Now that leader needs to be heard.