An interesting theory regarding the utter dysfunction of New York basketball has popped up in front-office circles: The Paradox of Jason Kidd.
It comes down to some around the league who believe the thing that made Kidd the right guy to help the Knicks play to their potential last season is the same thing helping derail the Nets this season.
Several league sources claim that outside of Raymond Felton, Carmelo Anthony has lost his team this season. “They don’t like him,” one executive said. “They can’t stand playing with him.”
The thinking goes this way: Last year, Jason Kidd could use his aggressive personality (one source used a double pejorative) to corral Melo’s tendency to suck the life out of his team’s morale, play selfish basketball and turn the locker room into a festering group of angry egos. Kidd would yell at Melo. Stand up to him. Tell him to get the hell where he belonged and do what the hell he needed to.
Kidd, basically, could be enough of a double pejorative to challenge Melo. With that gone, Tyson Chandler’s moderating influence sidelined because of his injury and things going bad, the Knicks have become a lost cause with a talented player not liked by much of his team. No one, the thinking goes in front offices across the country is giving him the tough love he’s never warmed to in his career but very much needs.
Yet that same I’m-a-badass approach Kidd used with the Knicks has helped fail the Nets this season. That aggressive personality that Kidd used — in conjunction, I’m told, with his utter inability to actually coach — has led to the Lawrence Frank mess, to the spilled-drink saga, to a group of egos in Brooklyn who might have responded positively to a guy on the floor but won’t from the dude in the suit, his playing career notwithstanding.
The one play Kidd has been capable of drawing up — one with colorful language that tells you what to do to yourself — works when you’re an athlete with the ball in your hands. Not so much as a coach holding a clipboard.
How to fix the Chicago Bulls
Derrick Rose faces the second serious knee injury of his young career — this time a torn meniscus — and the Bulls face a bevy of decisions. Luol Deng will be an expensive free agent after this season. Carlos Boozer and his staggering salary remain on the books until the summer of 2015. Taj Gibson isn’t cheap, either.
The Bulls have made it clear they don’t plan to blow the whole thing up and start over. But we asked three experts — two general managers and a front-office executive — to give us their takes on how they’d steer the ship through this second storm.
GM No. 1: “Blow the whole damn thing up but keep Derrick.”
Our guy — with the same caveats everyone else gave, mainly they’d first need access to Rose’s medical reports to see whether the second knee injury seemed unconnected to the first — didn’t mince words.
He’d trade Gibson ($8 million to $9 million a year through 2016-17) and Deng as quickly as possible. He used — liberally — the word “tank” to describe what comes next. He’d wait to move Joakim Noah at the deadline to pull better assets from a team with real need, amnesty Boozer and his remaining and $16.8 million) from the books and, yes, chase LeBron James next summer. He knows he’s not likely to get him, but amnestying Boozer makes it possible, and the long shot seems worth the effort.
“You tell Derrick to pound sand, that it’s been two years and this is it,” he says. “He’s the veteran when he comes back and you’re putting kiddy stars around him.” You have the rights to Nikola Mirotic, a 2011 first-round pick playing in Spain.
You get a great draft pick from tanking. And if Charlotte keeps being not so awful you get its top-10 protected pick to boot.
GM No. 2: “I’m done with Derrick Rose.”
Our second general manager wishes the Knicks had assets, because he knows he could pull that move off this year with them. But since they don’t, he trolls for another team willing to part with multiple picks over multiple years — and a heavy dose of first-round selections — for Rose.
From there, he lets Deng walk (or trades him), keeps Noah, makes a judgment later about Boozer, loves having Jimmy Butler for cheap, probably tries to make the playoffs this year so as not to alienate hard-charging head coach Tom Thibodeau and is a consistent playoff team in the awful Eastern Conference while building for the longer term with all those assets.
“Will he be the same guy? Probably. Maybe. Someone will think so. But I’m done with him. It’s time to move on.”
Front Office Executive: “The kid’s going to eventually come back and probably be the Derrick we know.”
Our guy goes through it out loud, talking about the many options — including just standing pat — and decides for a more moderate approach. He keeps Rose. He trades Boozer and Deng at the deadline, keeps Butler, Noah and Gibson and tries to find a few more pieces to make it work. He knows that if you go full “tank mode” you’re also saying goodbye to Thibodeau, so he skirts the line.
“If you go the whole way and keep Thibodeau, you fragment the locker room,” he says.
From time to time in this space, we’ll have Fox Sports 1 College Basketball Insider Reid Forgrave and front office executives throughout the league help us rank the top 10 college players in the upcoming NBA draft.
1. Andrew Wiggins, freshman, Kansas: For now, at least, the consensus No. 1 pick. There’s a belief he has by far the most upside but also more risk than other sure-thing talents. Said one GM: “He could be a Top-5 player, but unlike (Jabari) Parker, you’re not 100 percent sold he’ll be a star.” There’s a slight risk, but still a risk.
2. Jabari Parker, freshman, Duke: The most complete player in college basketball and the most NBA ready.
3. Marcus Smart, sophomore, Oklahoma State: The only knock last year was he couldn’t shoot. So far, problem solved.
4. Julius Randle, freshman, Kentucky: Randle is averaging a double-double (17.8 points, 12 rebounds) by simply bulldogging his way to the rim. He’s only shown hints of his huge skill set.
5. Aaron Gordon, freshman, Arizona: He’s the best athlete in college hoops not named Andrew Wiggins.
6. Joel Embiid, freshman, Kansas: General managers say this raw talent of a 7-footer could go anywhere from, yes, No. 1, to No. 20. The most alluring mystery in college basketball.
7. Noah Vonleh, freshman, Indiana: He’s long, he’s athletic, he’s put on muscle since arriving at Indiana, he rebounds, he blocks.
8. Semaj Christon, sophomore, Xavier: Could be the most exciting player to watch in college basketball this year. That means he sometimes plays out of control, but you always want to keep an eye on him as a lightning-quick point guard with just as good an eye for passing the ball as for driving to the rim.
9. Gary Harris, sophomore, Michigan State: Could have been the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft. A huge talent and shooter who can also get to the rim.
10. Montrezl Harrell, sophomore, Louisville: He’s having a fine season, if not the breakout one many projected, but he’s young, long and ridiculously athletic.
The FOX Sports Q&A: Chris Bosh
BR: The Pacers are having an exceptional start to their season, Chris. Are they a more formidable challenge than they were last season or the year before?
CB: You can see the fire and the chip on their shoulder that they have. That’s normal when you feel that you could’ve competed for an NBA title. And it came down to one game and they didn’t capitalize. That’s normal for them to have that fire. We have things we’re trying to work on and make sure we get right so we can compete when it’s time, and I’m sure we’ll see them and they’ll see us when it’s all said and done.
BR: You’re very involved with reading, and you’ve done some work on that front with the NBA and literacy. What is the best book you’ve ever read?
CB: “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”. Because he was such an iconic figure and there’s so many guys wearing shirts with him and you got streets named after him and (people) really don’t know why. He had such an up-and-down story of being a guy who ran the streets to being locked up in prison to being a revolutionary type of icon who didn’t mind preaching the use of violence. And then he totally went back against what he said and became something else, so he went through so many transformations. And you know, I watched the movie and the book was so much more insightful. Reading that book you get a better sense of who he was.
BR: Going back to the NBA, how worried are you about Dwyane Wade’s knee right now?
CB: Not worried. You know, I think it becomes this thing that everybody just worries too much about. Dwyane’s a professional, he’s going to do what it takes for himself to be healthy. I watch him work every day. He puts in hours and hours and hours into his game and into his body. And when it’s time to compete, he’ll be there, and we can rely on Dwyane.
BR: Do you think it’s a sure thing that you, LeBron James and Dwyane will be playing on the same team together in Miami next season?
CB: Nothing’s ever a sure thing. We would like to, of course. I think that’s a huge goal of ours to continue to build on what we’ve been doing. But at the end of the day, it’s a business. We understand that and, with that said, you never know what’s going to happen. But one thing we can focus on is making sure that we do what’s necessary to try to win a title this year.
BR: How likely do you think it is that LeBron finishes his career widely considered the greatest player of all time?
CB: He’ll definitely have a shot because of everything he’s already done. But, you know, he’s in the middle of writing his story. It’s difficult to just say, “OK, this is going to be the best book ever” and you’re still writing it. So he has to write it. He has to just go out there and play. Of course everybody else is going to speculate and say, “Hey, he’s doing this. Is he the greatest player? He’s not better than Jordan. They’re two different players.” You know there’s just so many different things and arguments that are going to come up. He just has to write his story.
BR: Last year you got a little bit of flak for saying you were going to be a lock for the Hall of Fame, though I heard you were just joking.
CB: No, I wasn’t joking.
BR: Oh, you were totally serious?
CB: I’m playing this game to be in the Hall of Fame. I’ve played this game to be the best I can be and win championships. You know, I don’t get why people would say I’m joking. Of course they’re going to argue, but I’m serious, and that’s one thing I’ve always been. I said that I want to be in the Hall of Fame one day. I’m not dreaming about it. I’m not saying that hoping and wishing. I’m dead serious.
BR: You think you’re a lock for it.
CB: Yeah, I mean, wouldn’t any other good player think they’re a lock for the Hall of Fame? I just believe in myself. That’s pretty much it. I mean, nobody would dispute that if LeBron said it. Nobody would dispute it if Dwyane said it. I know I don’t have MVPs or anything, but I think it’s just playing the game at a team level and losing myself in the team and making sure I (do) whatever it takes to win. I think that’s been a huge staple for me and a staple in my life.
BR: You have two young children. Any Chris Bosh parenting tips?
CB: Patience. I just try to let them be children. They’re going to be curious and I find myself sometimes wanting to get upset if they don’t understand something or aren’t doing something, and they’re kids, man. They’re figuring everything out. I try to do my best letting them experience the world the way they want to experience it and guide them as much as possible.
BR: Anything you do with your kids for fun away from sports?
CB: The whole Skylander game, I play that with my kids. It’s tough with video games because you have some for mature audiences and some for families. This is a good in-between where you can play with your kids. That’s one thing we do together and we enjoy it.