Jason Kidd’s bond with Giannis Antetokounmpo adds to complicated Knicks coaching candidacy
No one within the Knicks organization got much bothered when 10-time All-Star Jason Kidd retired. Kidd had fulfilled just one season of a three-year contract and went off to coach the Brooklyn Nets.
Kidd had prospered in his short Knicks stint — a force in the locker room during that 54-28 season in 2012-13 before petering out in the playoffs.
Nobody could have predicted Kidd’s absence would leave a leadership void the following season. The Knicks haven’t been back to the playoffs since Kidd left the Garden.
Leon Rose and William Wesley, who ran Creative Artists Agency’s basketball department and now run the Knicks, saw firsthand Kidd guiding Carmelo Anthony into his best season.
“He was the consummate leader and everyone listened to him that season,’’ one person familiar with the situation told The Post. “It’s cliché but true. The point guard is the extension of the head coach on the court. The Knicks were in transition. I don’t think anyone was angry Jason decided to retire. Everyone knew that his career trajectory was coaching. There was a change in the team’s direction, from older veterans to some younger guys.”
Currently a Lakers assistant coach, Kidd is back on the Knicks’ radar at age 47, interviewing a second time last Thursday with Rose, Wesley and GM Scott Perry.
Kidd’s leadership may not be the only pull to his candidacy.
That Kidd helped develop Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who savored his time with Kidd when he coached the Bucks, stands as another.
Antetokounmpo will be a free agent in 2021. When Kidd joined the Lakers as assistant, the scuttlebutt was he would succeed Frank Vogel when “The Greek Freak’’ became free. Antetokounmpo was said to be “devastated’’ when the Bucks fired Kidd.
“LeBron loves Kidd,’’ one team executive told The Post. “But Giannis swears by him.’’
Vogel has done such an outstanding job in Los Angeles that perhaps Kidd realizes he’s not soon to be his successor. Kidd is one of 11 Knicks coaching candidates — and some insiders feel he’s the lone long-shot threat to favorite Tom Thibodeau. Wesley is said to like Kidd, too.
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“He’s a Hall of Fame player and young innovative coach who learned from his past mistakes,’’ said one personnel man familiar with the Knicks’ interest. “I think the Knicks’ young players would relate to him. Whether a factor for Giannis, wherever [Kidd] goes to coach, that team most definitely will have a seat at that dinner table when the time comes.”
Kidd’s playing career was impeccable. His coaching career not as much.
The biggest stain on his coaching résumé was a failed power play with the Nets after one 44-38, second-round season. Kidd attempted to remove Billy King and take over as head of basketball operations.
Frank Zanin, the Knicks’ new assistant GM, held the same position with the Nets under King amidst Kidd’s attempted coup d’etat.
When Kidd got rebuffed, he jumped to the Bucks, run by opportunistic New York-based owners, Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry.
“I wouldn’t hire Jason Kidd if he was the last coach standing,’’ said an NBA source who has worked with Kidd. “It would be a terrible choice. There’s a reason Milwaukee is in the place where they are right now — coaching.’’
While Kidd wanted to be in charge in Brooklyn, his momentum ran out in Milwaukee in the middle of his fourth season.
Kidd was fired in January 2018 with a 23-22 record. He never managed to get the Bucks out of the first round despite taking them to the playoffs twice. Mike Budenholzer is 113-34 in his two seasons with the Bucks since Kidd’s dismissal.
Sources contend Kidd’s firing was for his refusal to take input from others in the organization, that he was stuck doing it only his way. The Bucks defense suffered for it.
Rose said recently on MSG Network the new head coach and front office would need to establish “a collaborative effort.’’
That could be a strike against Kidd’s candidacy. However, imagine what Kidd could be for the Knicks’ young point guards, Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. — not to mention if they draft the 6-foot-7 LaMelo Ball.
In March 2019, Kidd visited the Knicks’ shootaround in Phoenix at former coach David Fizdale’s invitation. Kidd held a 20-minute summit with newly acquired Smith Jr. and Emmanuel Mudiay, who left after that season.
Fizdale, who played against Kidd in California high school tournaments, asked that morning, “Who better to talk to my point guards than one of the best and greatest ever?”
Who could’ve imagined then Kidd succeeding Fizdale to become Smith’s full-time tutor?
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