From the moment he was hired to be head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, Jason Kidd faced plenty of scrutiny. He was fresh off retirement and was hired to take over a Nets team with massive expectations, even though they suffered a loss in the first round of the playoffs in 2013. Things got off to a rough start for Kidd and the Nets, but he showcased in the 2014 first-round series against the Toronto Raptors just how high of a coaching acumen he really has.
Even though the Nets were the lower-seeded team going up against the Atlantic-Division-winning Raptors, they were the favorites to win the series. With so many seasoned veterans, it was assumed the Nets would take control of the series against a shell-shocked Raptors team full of youngsters that have never played on this sort of stage. It added even more pressure on Kidd’s shoulders as his team was expected to win the series, and relatively easily. The Raptors came ready to play though, and Kidd’s coaching was put to the test.
Kidd did not look like a rookie head coach in this series, as he put the Nets in the best position possible to win. He managed minutes throughout the series extremely well, keeping his older team fresh for when they were needed most. Having players like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce rested down the stretch of games was of the utmost importance in this series.
Throughout a seven-game series, the other team will learn your plays and tendencies. It is up to the coach to adjust and make changes, and that is exactly what Kidd did.
Down 3-2, Kidd made the decision to switch up his starting lineup. It was an unprecedented move, especially for someone with the level of coaching experience Kidd has. More often than not, no matter what is happening in the series, you stick to what got you there. But being the savvy decision-maker he is, and seeing how poorly that thinking worked for his New York Knicks last season in the playoffs, Kidd realized this was not a sound decision and a change needed to be made for Game 6.
He inserted Alan Anderson in the starting lineup for Shaun Livingston, and the move paid off. Anderson gave the Nets nine points and nine rebounds in 31 minutes, but more importantly, the Nets got the victory and were able to force Game 7.
In Game 7, he stuck with the same starting lineup from Game 6, and he also made minor changes to his rotation, getting Marcus Thornton some more minutes. Once again the move paid off, as Thornton provided the perimeter scoring punch the Nets lacked at points during the series.
Kidd did a great job on the biggest stage there is for the NBA, growing up before our eyes as a head coach. He will be tested once again, and will have his hands full in the second round against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat. Even so, Kidd should have plenty of confidence going into Round 2 after a successful first-round performance and the fact he led the Nets to a 4-0 regular-season record against the Heat.