Jason Kidd makes official Nets coaching debut Sunday night
Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, Jason Kidd made his NBA debut with 10 points and 11 assists for the Mavericks in a win over the Nets, of all teams. That launched a career that was so accomplished and cerebral that he was hired as the Nets' coach almost immediately after he retired as a point guard.
So Sunday night in Orlando, Kidd will be a rookie again. Having served a two-game league suspension for pleading guilty to a charge of drunken driving, Kidd officially will begin his new career.
"Officially" is the pertinent word because Kidd did direct the team throughout the preseason. Plus, he always was something of a coach on the court, beginning with feeding Jim Jackson for his 37 points (and offsetting Nets point guard Kenny Anderson's 30) in Dallas on Nov. 5, 1994.
Kidd's leadership helped win the 2011 NBA title during his second go-round with the Mavericks and completely transformed the Nets as soon as he was acquired in 2001. This time he takes over a team that does not need a transformation. The Nets just need a wise head and steady hand at the wheel.
They almost certainly have the deepest, most versatile roster in franchise history, witnessed by their 101-100 victory over the two-time defending champion Heat on Friday night at Barclays Center. Kidd witnessed from afar, completing the punishment from the DWI incident in East Hampton in July 2012. But you could say his presence was felt, especially if you were Heat star Dwyane Wade.
"It's the Jason Kidd effect: They move the ball," Wade said. "Everywhere he has been, his team has moved the ball. That makes you make multiple [defensive] efforts. This team is obviously a good shooting team and they're going to be a good defensive team."
After spending 19 years as a skilled ball distributor, Kidd now may find that his greatest challenge is distributing enough playing time to keep everyone healthy and happy.
"One to 10, we match up pretty much with anybody in the league," Paul Pierce said late Friday night, "and we have more depth than anybody in the league, especially when you talk about Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans, Andrei Kirilenko, Shaun Livingston, Alan Anderson. There's so many guys we can throw at you, a lot of guys who started on other teams but are now coming off the bench."
Deron Williams, a friend and East End golf partner of Kidd's, said: "I think that's the beauty of it right now. Nobody has to play too many minutes and nobody really cares. You are not seeing anybody pouting. Everybody is up cheering, everybody is up having fun. And that's the way it's supposed to be."
There was tension amid the cheering Friday when the Nets' 16-point lead was cut to one. "That will come as we play together and as we get more comfortable," Williams said. "It's just a focus level we've got to have."
On Sunday night, the focus will be on the coach. "He gets to make his debut," Williams said, adding with a smile, "Finally. After two games."
Blatche fined. Blatche was fined $15,000 by the NBA for making an obscene gesture late in the fourth quarter Friday.