The Brooklyn Nets went into last season with the biggest payroll in the NBA, a ton of talent, a ton of experience, and enormous expectations. The only question mark was their head coach, just-removed-from-playing Jason Kidd. Though it seemed he improved as a coach as the season progressed, that question mark may have been bigger than anyone realized.
As the Nets fielded questions at Media Day this past Friday, there were obviously inquiries about Kidd given his unceremonious departure from the organization. One of the questions was about the practices that the Nets had last season under Kidd. Veteran guard Joe Johnson’s response said it all: “We practiced, but, you know … not really.”
There’s a lot to mine from that quote. Obviously there’s the fact that NBA teams don’t really practice to the degree that some people might think they do during the season. Sure, they are practices that non-professionals would have a hard time getting through, but it’s not something that happens as often or as intensely as some people might think.
However, the biggest thing that you can dig out of Johnson’s quote is that Kidd never really lit a fire under this team. If this team wasn’t “really” practicing last season at all, that’s an issue. It’s an even bigger issue for this particular team, though.
Players on the Brooklyn roster like Deron Williams are obviously extremely talented, but they’ve also been given the rap of becoming complacent at times and not playing with a sense of urgency. While that’s not an issue for other players like Kevin Garnett, it’s a big issue when the whole roster isn’t on the same page in terms of how engaged they are. If the head coach is “not really” practicing, that’s only harboring an environment for that complacency to fester and ultimately lead to unmet expectations.
Now that Kidd is gone and Lionel Hollins is at the helm, though, the issue of complacency could very well dissipate. Hollins is an intense guy that is at his best when coaching veteran players, which makes him somewhat ideal for maximizing what the Nets have.
There’s nothing guaranteed, but it seems like a distinct possibility that the departure of Kidd could be the best thing to happen to the Nets coming into the 2014-15 season.