The Dallas Mavericks hired Jason Kidd to replace long-time head coach Rick Carlisle last summer after their second straight first-round playoff exit. I will admit when they made the move, I was not a massive fan. I didn't necessarily hate it, but I was skeptical for the simple fact that Kidd had underachieved in his previous coaching stops. Fast forward 57 games into his first regular season, and the hire is now looking like a slam dunk.
The biggest concern with Kidd coming into this year was how the players would respond to his coaching methods. There were several stories from former players describing the several instances of intense practices and harsh things Kidd would say to players.
So far in Kidd's tenure, his supposed extreme tactics have seemed to be a non-issue. Players like him, and they've all bought into what the Hall of Fame point guard is trying to do.
Why Jason Kidd has been an A-plus hire for the Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs' improved defense this year has been well documented. It's the biggest reason for the team's impressive run in the last 25 or so games, and a lot of the praise needs to go to Jason Kidd. He has somehow made every guy on the roster buy into playing defense, and it has made the Mavericks a much better team.
Their defense impressed me the most because of their adjustments when things don't go their way. Last week in Philadelphia is perhaps the best example. Joel Embiid had his way in the first half, virtually doing what he wanted, and the Mavs had given up 63 points in 24 minutes. Dallas came out in the second half in a two-three zone that completely bewildered the 76ers. I thought the move by Kidd to use a zone to stop Embiid was brilliant, and the decision was the reason the Mavericks were able to get back in that game and ultimately win.
Jason Kidd's ability to deal with adversity has been the theme of his early tenure. Dealing with the plethora of injuries and COVID-related absences is one thing, but doing it as well as Kidd has is another. The Hall of Famer always seems to have a calming demeanor, and I think that presence will rub off on guys in time.
Kidd has also brought in a slew of elite assistant coaches and experienced basketball minds on his coaching staff. Guys like Igor Kokoshov, J.J. Barea, Jared Dudley, and Sean Sweeney have all seemed to be huge positives. Barea and Kokoshov also have incredibly tight relationships with Luka, so with Jamahl Mosely gone, Kidd got some familiar faces for Luka to lean on.
I've always seen coaching in the NBA comparable to cooking a steak. If you have a great quality cut, it may take less effort and skill to make it taste great, but you'll still have to do things to the meat for it to taste as good as it should. Now, if you have a cheap cut of meat, you'll have to do more and be a more skilled cook to get that steak tasting great.
The ladder is what I've seen Kidd do with the Dallas Mavericks roster. He has made a team that has dealt with injuries, limited talent, and a pandemic appear like they are one of the top seven or eight teams in the NBA, when in reality, without him, they are nowhere near the spot they are in right now.
Jason Kidd needs to be considered a Coach of the Year candidate. With the Mavericks' drastic improvement defensively and the adverse situations he's dealt with, I think he deserves more praise from the media and Basketball fans alike.