Age is certainly a problem for the Brooklyn Nets. However, not in the same way it is for most men approaching their 40s and 50s. Age is an issue in the same way that it is for 20-somethings like myself still trying to figure out this crazy thing called post-grad life.
I’m not talking about their roster either. The Nets brought Jason Terry, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett into the mix to serve as experienced sherpas for Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams’ championship climb. It really is a perfect mix of youth in their prime and veteran experience.
In the aftermath of Avery Johnson’s autocratic rule in Brooklyn and retread replacement P.J. Carlesimo, the Nets believe they found a happy medium in an energetic player’s coach to preside over their $180 million roster.
It’s not a coincidence that the Nets held their training camp at Duke University in Raleigh, North Carolina. Jason Kidd could benefit from the crash course in coaching from Coach K.
Five months ago, Kidd had too much wear and tear on his Carfax to contribute to the geriatric Knicks ill-fated attempt to mount a challenge against the Miami Heat in the East. As the regular season opening nears, the burning question has flipped to whether his appointment as head coach of a title contender with a biological clock was premature.
"Now, this is the window –– this season," Nets' general manager Billy King decreed on Oct. 2. "We're going to see what we can do with this season, and then we'll see what next season brings."
Kidd’s basketball IQ is unquestioned, but the Nets may have jumped the gun by handing a neophyte driver the keys to a million-dollar Bugatti on the Autobahn. In six months the Brooklyn Nets bandwagon will either be engulfed in flames on the side of the road or planning parade routes through Atlantic Avenue. Kidd is the designated driver.
The Nets hired a head coach in Kidd who skipped over the same type of assistant coaching fellowship that Johnson enrolled in on Don Nelson’s Mavericks bench.
The idea that Kidd’s reputation as a cerebral floor general guarantees him immediate success as an actual head coach wouldn’t fly in any other profession.
So what happens when Coach Kidd has to keep his team afloat during tumultuous times, adjust his defensive schemes in the final minutes of a nationally-televised matchup, has to bench an unhappy K.G. to control his minutes or has to determine whether to draw up a play on the final possession for Joe Johnson or Paul Pierce.
Will he negotiate with players that were his peers in April or adopt a sterner persona with the strong personalities on their roster?
Kidd is only three years older than Celtics rookie coach Brad Stevens, but does he understand how to comb through advanced statistics and incorporate them into his coaching intuition? Non-jocks like Stevens and Erik Spoelstra became students of the analytics movement that has swept the league, and pushed guys like Lionel Hollins out in Memphis.
Will Kidd flourish like Larry Bird or suffer excruciatingly in the Big Apple spotlight like Isiah Thomas?
Kidd is such a blank canvas, he was still a Knick when they ended Pierce, Terry and K.G.’s Celtics careers. You don’t think there’s any leftover resentment left over there? Have you heard Pierce inveighing against New York City’s other team since he was traded to Brooklyn over the summer?
Kidd and K.G.’s brief discord over whether to bench the stubborn 37-year-old future Hall of Famer during the second half of back-to-backs for his long-term health is emblematic of how little coaching cache’ he has.
"It didn't go too well," Garnett explained during Media Day. "I understand what he's saying. He just wants to make sure I'm durable. ... I just don't want to be told anything."
Could you imagine anyone trying to veto Gregg Popovich like that? Instead, Kidd has to grit his teeth and bear it because on the other side, he’s an expendable bench suit.
The expectation is that the NBA’s Doogie Howser will ease the transition. Nine years after the New Jersey Nets promoted 34 year-old Lawrence Frank to head coach, he’s back in the fold as Kidd’s assistant coach.
Mikhail Prokhorov shelled out $1 million to make Frank the highest-paid assistant in the league.
Marketing-wise, Kidd’s hiring was an inspired move, but there were much better coaching options out there on the open market. One of them is a defensive guru who led a blue-collar Memphis team to the Conference Finals and the other was the NBA Coach of the Year.
Prokhorov and King are playing Russian Roulette with their coach-in-training. Things could get ugly quickly if Kidd can’t cut it.