It’s one of the more fascinating questions in the NBA right now: What if Jason Kidd had not made a power play in Brooklyn, being content to coach the Nets without having more control over operations?
This question was worth asking on Sunday, when Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov (the biggest problem with the organization) sacked general manager Billy King and head coach Lionel Hollins. It’s even more worth asking after a Wednesday night in which the Bucks suffered a particularly crucial loss to the Washington Wizards.
The Bucks entered the night three games behind the Wizards in the cluttered East race, but with Washington having four games in hand (only 36 entering Wednesday, compared to 40 for the Bucks), Milwaukee stood five games out in the loss column and needed to trim that particular deficit to four games. It constantly bears repeating: You can’t go around saying all 82 games are must-wins in the Association, but certain games do matter a little more than others. This was one of them for the Bucks.
Losing to the Wizards — with Brad Beal back, but with Marcin Gortat out — will leave a mark. The setback severely cripples Milwaukee’s ability to make a push for the No. 8 seed. The way in which the Bucks lost was also quite typical of their season.
Milwaukee is the team which gave Golden State a maximum degree of difficulty in a two-game season series. Yet, the Bucks are also the team which got whacked by the Los Angeles Lakers and has fallen well short of its “Golden State standard” in the other 39 games it has played. Wildly erratic play has been a central identifying dimension of the Bucks’ season. Wednesday in Washington, that reality bit the Bucks in the backside once more.
Tuesday, Milwaukee committed only five turnovers. The Bucks defeated the Chicago Bulls, one of the better non-Cleveland teams in the East. In this game against Washington, the Bucks turned the ball over 27 times. Given that Milwaukee fell by a relatively small margin of 106-101, it’s safe to say that with 20 turnovers — still a large number — the Bucks probably would have won. Nope — they had to cough up the pill 27 times, enough for Washington to escape.
No, this back-to-back in different time zones was never going to be easy. Moreover, one shouldn’t have expected Milwaukee to beat the Wizards on Wednesday. Yet, the remarkably vast variance in one category of performance — 5 turnovers one night, 27 the next — exposes the lack of steadiness this roster possesses. Professionalism demands the ability to repeatedly perform the same tasks at a competent level, and for the Bucks, there are simply too many nights when they wander off the reservation in some regard.
What does Jason Kidd think of all this?
Kidd, due to his own health problems, hasn’t been able to coach the Bucks since the middle of December. Yet, it’s not as though he was able to solve his team while on the bench himself. Responsibility for this season has been entrusted over the past few weeks to assistant coach Joe Prunty, but this is still Kidd’s show.
It creates a thought: He could be one of the better compartmentalizers in the NBA, able to focus fully on the future while shutting out the past. Yet, one can’t help but wonder if Kidd — seeing the carnage in Brooklyn and bearing witness to the Bucks’ dysfunction — regrets his move to Milwaukee.
Yes, the presence of Prokhorov in Brooklyn probably enables Kidd to sleep without too much anxiety, but notions of a grand future for a young Milwaukee roster do not hold the weight they did in the offseason. The claim leveled by skeptics of the Bucks before this season began was that the team never did play particularly well after Brandon Knight left. With Milwaukee owning 16 wins at the 41-game midpoint of the season — you can do the simple math and identify a 32-win pace — the criticisms of the Bucks have been validated.
It’s true that the Nets are in worse shape than the Bucks, but the gap between the two organizations is relatively small. To be more precise, it’s smaller than what a lot of pundits probably expected at the start of the season. Given that Kidd left a playoff team in Brooklyn to coach the Bucks, it’s not hard to imagine that in a third season as Brooklyn’s coach, Kidd could have made the Nets function effectively. Brooklyn might be closer to the playoffs than the Bucks currently are. Maybe Deron Williams would not have felt so out of sorts under Hollins last season. Maybe a cohesive roster would have remained intact with the Nets; little if anything about this Milwaukee roster stays intact on a nightly basis.
It’s not a reminder so much as a point to be re-emphasized: Kidd wasn’t pushed out in Brooklyn. He chose to make a power play which was subsequently rebuffed. He then made his next move, successfully unseating Larry Drew in Milwaukee.
Kidd didn’t have to leave Brooklyn. He wanted to… after he didn’t get what he want.
Kidd wanted what he ultimately received in Milwaukee.
What Kidd has — health problems aside — doesn’t look very good right now.
Watch what you wish for; you just might get it. That’s the Jason Kidd story during a week of misery for his former team and his current one.