“I have bad hearing anyways,” Kidd said. “I thought whatever the greeting was, it’s about the players. People don’t pay to come to see the coach.”
On this night, they did. This was more than just a game. This was a personal score that had to be settled among Nets management, Brooklyn fans and Kidd.
The tension between Nets management and Kidd could be felt across the court. It was palpable.
Fans viciously blasted Kidd for leaving the team on bad terms and failing to meet championship expectations as coach last season.
During a pause in the national anthem, one fan yelled, “Kidd, you suck!”
As I wrote in a previous SheridanHoops column when Kidd became Milwaukee’s coach after a falling out with Brooklyn’s management, he didn’t just burn a bridge with the Nets – he basically set it ablaze with an entire gas station’s fuel supply.
Kidd reportedly went to ownership and demanded a promotion to leapfrog management.
Remember, this was the same management that hired Kidd as an unproven rookie coach after a checkered past filled with red flags from a coach killer reputation dating back to the University of California, multiple drunk driving incidents and an ugly divorce from his ex-wife, Joumana.
Kidd was asked directly if he tried to promote himself above management.
“I didn’t promote myself to do anything but to learn how to be a coach,” Kidd replied.
Rumors swirled last season that Nets management strongly considered making a coaching change as the Nets – tagged as a title contender – got off to a 10-21 start.
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According to Kidd, when the Nets allowed the Bucks to talk with him, it gave “some legs” to rumors that management wanted him out in December.
While Kidd coached the Bucks to a wild 122-118 triple-overtime victory, his retired No. 5 jersey awkwardly hung from the rafters above him. Despite leaving on bad terms with the organization for a second time, Kidd believes it won’t tarnish his legacy as a franchise player.
“We have gone through too many battles,” Kidd said. “Being able to take a franchise from the bottom to going to the Finals two years in a row, to having winning seasons, changing the culture of the whole Nets. I understand Dr. J is Mr. Net and hopefully I can be in that same conversation. My teammates, coaches, we did a lot for this franchise, but it’s ‘what have you done for us lately’ motto. I understand everybody has their opinion, but it’s business and I work for the Milwaukee Bucks.”
Kidd’s days as a player for the Nets will always be celebrated as a high point during which the franchise went from an annual laughingstock to an elite title contender.
However, there’s no denying Kidd’s latest clash with the organization will forever tarnish his legacy.
In addition, Kidd’s exit signaled a transitional period for the Nets. After Kidd left for the Bucks, Paul Pierce – acquired from Boston with Kevin Garnett in a huge trade that saw the Nets mortgage a considerable portion of their future – was not offered a contract in free agency and signed with the Washington Wizards.
Just like that, the trio of Kidd, Pierce and Garnett assembled to complement Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez for a title run was dismantled after only one season.
The repercussions have been magnified as the Nets – now with Lionel Hollins at the controls – are 4-7 and in the midst of a five-game losing streak.
“I’m definitely concerned with five straight losses,” Williams said. “Who wouldn’t be? We have to turn it around if we want to avoid last year. We’ve got to figure it out soon.”
Williams’ comments come two days after questioning the identity and consistency of the team due to too many coaching changes.
“We’re on our fourth coach in three years,” Williams said Monday. “There hasn’t been any consistency. So we’re learning again as a team and you’re going to go through rough patches. You’re going to go through ups and downs. Hopefully we’re going through them right now so that come January, come February, we’ll be hitting stride and on into the playoffs.”
Instead, the Nets left the arena with a fifth straight loss and searching for answers. Meanwhile, Kidd’s Bucks (7-5) have now won three straight games and appear to be on the rise as a young team with underrated depth, developing talent, growing chemistry and resiliency.
Brandon Knight embodied each of the above characteristics in Milwaukee’s win.
Knight missed a potential game-winning breakaway layup at the end of the first overtime. But he redeemed himself in the second overtime by converting a 3-pointer from the left wing to tie the game at 112 apiece and again in the third OT with two free throws to ice the 122-118 victory.
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“Not that we talked about it, but we all knew just being here and the situation was a little bit hostile when (Kidd) walked out on the court,” Knight said. “We definitely wanted to get this win for him.”
“We’re a family, we talked about that from day one,” Kidd said. “It’s about protecting one another.”
As the Bucks began to leave Barclays Center, Kidd was smiling with his son in the hallway after getting the win in a hostile environment.
While Kidd has the support of Bucks ownership and management, it remains to be seen how much patience Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov will show with his underperforming team.
Hollins is unlikely to feel the wrath of Prokhorov should the losing continue since he just became Brooklyn’s newest coach. If the Nets don’t begin winning games soon, however, general manager Billy King may be the one to take the fall.
Who would have thought of such a scenario after the Nets publicly backed management and orchestrated a trade to send Kidd to the Bucks a few months ago?