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Jason Kidd has Nets’ Mojo in Full Gear

by Sean Flattery | Posted on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Remember when people said Jason Kidd was “over his head,” when referring to his ability to be a head coach? Those sentiments seem pretty premature at this point, as the Nets are now 28-11 since the beginning of the calendar year, the best mark in the league.  Despite losing a tough overtime game in New Orleans Monday night, the Nets are still playing their best basketball of the year and they have their coach to thank for it.

Jason Kidd coaching Photo Credit: Ramneet Singh

Jason Kidd coaching
Photo Credit: Ramneet Singh

Unlike the beginning of the season, when injuries and lineup changes stunted the growth of team unity, the Nets are playing a brand of basketball that mirrors the heart and skillset of their soon to be Hall of Fame coach.  Kidd, a 10 time All-Star, was readily known for his leadership, mental toughness, and competitive intangibles; it was those very qualities which exuded in his game and he infused them in his teammates.   The same can be said regarding this group, who are now slotted in the fifth spot of the Eastern conference, and just two games out of the division lead.  Kidd is coaching the team to play as a cohesive unit with one goal in mind: championship.

The message has resonated throughout the team, specifically on the defensive end of the court.  The Nets are now in the top ten in the league in steals and defensive field goal percentage, as well as offensive turnovers.   In fact, they have committed fewer turnovers than their opponents in 12 of the last 13 games.   With a rotation that has used all 12 active players at times, Kidd’s squad has taken on a feisty and tenacious defensive style that has stifled teams in the half court.  They’ve done most of the latest work, too, without Garnett, who has been suffering back spasms for the past month.  The Nets, holding the second highest average age, have showed a team defense that has injected belief that they are legit contenders in the Eastern Conference.

The offense, despite the slow start, was eventually going to click; that was never in doubt. The team just has too many proven and versatile scorers with an elite court general in Deron Williams. The biggest challenge going into the season was thought to be the defense, but Kidd and his staff have installed a game plan that has been effective.  The help defense, small lineups and exertion of energy into passing lanes have enabled the Nets to frustrate opponents.  Kidd’s recollection of his past few seasons in today’s NBA has assisted him to manage minutes for the older players handily, too.

The placement of Shaun Livingston and Mason Plumlee in the starting lineup with Williams, Johnson, and Pierce has also catalyzed the team.   The rookie center, Plumlee, has averaged 7.8 PPG, 6.8 RPG, and a .631 FG pct. in 21.2 MPG in March, a nice boost with Garnett sidelined.  That production has allowed Kidd to bring Andray Blatche off the bench to bolster the second team’s offense, along with Marcus Thornton.  Livingston’s stints usually come with the “first” and “second” teams, but the matchups play into how Kidd dictates the minutes, as well. Off the bench, Blatche has thrived in passing out of the high post, and scoring from all parts of the floor, while sporting one of the best ball fakes in the league.  Thornton and Alan Anderson have showed streaks of deadly outside shooting, and Andrei Kirilenko has been a disruptor on defense.

Jason Kidd and Paul Pierce Photo Credit: floorgeneral.com

Jason Kidd and Paul Pierce
Photo Credit: floorgeneral.com

All of the ingredients have mixed together well and it’s been exciting for the fans to watch.  The team has played with confidence and swagger in the recent weeks, which is a good sign, as they make a push for a higher seed in next month’s playoffs. Kidd has coached these perennial All-stars into checking their egos and sacrifice for the good of the team, a task easier said than done. This “rookie” coach is leading with consistent ease, much like he did as a player.

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