Most NBA head coaches don’t go anywhere near their franchise’s Summer League team, as it is usually full of rookies and fringe players just looking to earn an NBA contract.
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Clearly, Jason Kidd is not like most NBA head coaches. Kidd will be coaching the Brooklyn Nets summer leaguers in order to garner as much sideline experience as possible before beginning his first regular season as a head coach. Kidd, who retired after the 2013 playoffs after one season with the New York Knicks, wasted no time in campaigning and eventually being hired for the Nets head coaching position.
So, how did J-Kidd do in Brooklyn’s first Summer League game?
Well, the Nets didn’t win, as the team fell to the Pistons 76-67, but the score doesn’t really tell the whole story. The Pistons brought an extremely talented roster to the Orlando Summer League, including lottery pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, guard Kris Middleton and second-year player Andre Drummond (who is probably the best overall player in the tournament).
Kidd, on the other hand, had a much less polished team to coach up, led by Tyshawn Taylor and the athletic but raw Mason Plumlee.
The Nets kept the game close up until the final minute, closing to within four with 1:39 left in regulation. Kidd got to show off some coaching savvy in the final two minutes by having his players foul Drummond as soon as he caught the ball. Drummond, who shot just 37.1 percent on free throws in his rookie year, rewarded Kidd’s decision by clanking both foul shots.
The most positive aspect of Brooklyn’s performance was definitely the team’s defense, which held the Pistons to 37 percent shooting from the field. Some of the defensive credit must be given to Lawrence Frank, the elite assistant coach whom Kidd brought in to plan defensive schemes for Brooklyn, but Kidd was clearly able to motivate his team to dive after loose balls and close out hard on shooters, and this allowed the Nets to keep this game close for much longer than it should have been.
It will be interesting to see what adjustments Kidd makes on the offensive end for the team’s next game. Taylor is a solid scorer and Plumlee is a good finisher around and above the rim, but Kidd does not have much else to work with. Is he creative enough to call sets that can get these players easy buckets? If he can do that consistently this summer, he will have a very long career as a head coach in the NBA.
There is still a lot to see before a real judgement can be made about Jason Kidd’s coaching ability, but he is off to a solid start.