Not many players go from playing one year to immediately coaching the next. It’s especially rare for them to turn up as the head coach, but that’s exactly what Jason Kidd is doing. The Nets took a chance on him because they know how important he is to the organization and how smart he is on the court.
On Thursday night at the Barclays Center, the Nets physically showed what they think of Kidd and what he meant to the organization as they retired his No. 5 jersey in a ceremony before the Nets victory over the Miami Heat.
“I’m glad I was in the building to be apart of something that was special,” Kevin Garnett said. “For everybody who was in the league, he had an unbelievable run when he was here. It just felt like it was only right. It shows a lot of class from the Nets organization hosting his number up and showing appreciation for Jason. I’m glad not only to be apart of his life but to be able to say that I was here for that.”
Paul Pierce added, “I’m just glad I was present for Jason’s prime years here. While he was playing in Jersey I was the victim of a lot of playoff losses. To me Jason is one of the greatest players. He’s broken my heart a couple of years in a row when I was in Boston in the playoffs when he was unbelievable averaging a triple-double. At that time I had never seen a player on the court playing like that where there was nothing you could do. It was just a pleasure and I knew his number was definitely going to go up somewhere. He’s not only one of the greatest Nets to play, but he’s one of the best players in the NBA’s history.”
The ceremony was brief, it only lasted about 20 minutes. Former Nets general manager Rod Thorn, who orchestrated the trade that brought Kidd to New Jersey, gave a brief speech. Kidd, in classic Kidd fashion, deferred to his teammates and said that “when my number goes up to the rafters, we all go up.”
Perhaps the most touching thing to happen during the game took place throughout during stoppages where the Nets played video tributes from Kidd’s former teammates. Kidd didn’t get a chance to see it because he was busy coaching though, but said he looks forward to watching the clips after.
“”The Nets did a wonderful job tonight with the retirement of the jersey from coaches to our president,” Kidd said. “They invited a lot of people and a lot of people showed. With the crowd cheering it’s an emotional thing because you can reflect on a lot of the battles that we’ve had.
“Thinking about some of the names that are up there, Dr. J, Buck Williams, it was a special honor not just for me but for my teammates as well.”
Kidd is happy to have this all over with as well. He explained that he preferred it in the preseason because there is a lot to do to prepare for a game as a head coach, particularly a rookie head coach, so he didn’t want the distraction.
“The questions don’t stop, but they won’t be about the retirement so I’m glad that’s over with,” Kidd said. “Basketball questions will still come. I’m happy that the retirement thing is over and I’m glad that we didn’t do it during the regular season because there is a lot as a head coach that you have to prepare for, especially like a team like this tonight so I’m glad that it’s over with.”
• Now that the Nets have played a few preseason games there has been a call to evaluate how good they are. The problem is they are without a few players right now including Deron Williams, Jason Terry, Andrei Kirilenko and others so it’s kind of hard to pin down still. Also, they are playing against teams without their full squad. Miami was without Ray Allen, Chris Andersen, Dwyane Wade and others.
“We know what we’re capable of, but at the same time we’re not going to know our potential for a while now until we get fully healthy,” Pierce said. “Deron running the controls at the point, AK, Jason Terry, this is just a little taste of what we could be.”
Kidd was asked to evaluate the progress of the team through four games, “I thought we got better tonight. It’s still preseason and there is still a lot for us to work on, but we’re sharing the ball and trying making the right plays. There were 25 turnovers tonight so that’s something that we’re going to talk about. We’re paying more attention to it now that there are only two games left because that’s something that you can’t have during the regular season, especially against the elite teams. Not just the elite teams, but teams in general. We’re protecting the paint, they shot under 40 percent and that’s one of our goals. Guys shared the ball, played hard, nobody played over 30 minutes and everyone left healthy. That’s the most important.”
• Pierce added that he wants to team to have a defensive identity, “We want to be a hard rounded out team that’s not easy for other teams. That’s we’ve been showing the last couple of games the way our defense has been playing giving up so few points. That’s the message that we want to send. That’s going to be our identity.”
• KG on why the team has been so good defensively early on, “We’re talking, we’re communicating. We believe in our system, we’re not shying away and doing things on our own. We’re not making up stuff. The game plan is what it is and we’re sticking to the game plan. We’re consistent in what we do. We come in everyday and try to work on it and carry that over to the games. I think that’s how you do better at things like this.”
• KG was asked to compared Brooklyn to Miami, “I don’t think that you could measure the two. I’m just showing a lot of respect to the champs and what they do and their body of work. They’ve been together for a while and this team is just newly assembled. I think we need some more games under our belts to see what we are and then you can assess and compare teams. Until then I don’t think it’s fair to them and what they’ve done with that team.”
• Last word goes to Paul Pierce: “We have the group. The potential is definitely there. I understand that we do have guys that have been in All-Star games. The potential is definitely there for us to be one of those teams to be talked about in NBA history, but it’s up to us to show it, be healthy and make a great run.”