It was a quiet Saturday evening in Brooklyn before a tweet from a New York Post reporter made a group of Nets fans, team officials, and league executives spit out their rum and Cokes as they celebrated the official beginning of the offseason.
The tweet said that after approaching Nets management demanding more power and a role above general manager Billy King, coach Jason Kidd had received permission to speak with the Milwaukee Bucks about their coaching position.
There was one major issue: The Bucks already had a coach, who, a day before, appeared at a news conference sitting next to No. 2 overall draft pick Jabari Parker. Larry Drew had just completed his first season and the Bucks won a franchise-low 15 games, but better times were ahead with Parker.
Three days after the tweet, Kidd was introduced as the Bucks’ head coach, sitting next to new team owner Marc Lasry, a former Kidd business partner and adviser. And they were left to explain the stunning and rather unsavory events of the past few days, which cost Drew his job and allowed the Nets to awkwardly move forward.
Kidd’s desire for more power was not surprising; it was the timing. He had coached one NBA season after a 19-year playing career. The Nets took a chance on Kidd, given his charge of a DWI while with the New York Knicks in his final season. There was also the perception that he bailed on the Dallas Mavericks to sign with the Knicks, and a previous assertion that he worked to get Byron Scott fired as coach of the Nets.
The journey that was his first season as a coach was rocky at best. He demoted assistant Lawrence Frank just weeks into the season and then received a $25,000 fine for asking Nets guard Tyshawn Taylor to bump into him so he could spill a drink on the floor to cause a game delay with his team out of timeouts.
Things settled down after Jan. 1, when the Nets streaked to the sixth seed in the playoffs and eliminated the Toronto Raptors in the first round. Brooklyn’s aging veterans were no match for Miami, and its championship aspirations were quickly extinguished by the Heat.
Kidd wasn’t pleased with King’s in-season moves, especially the trade that sent Jason Terry and Reggie Evans to the Sacramento Kings for Marcus Thornton. He also had watched as Steve Kerr received $4 million per year from the Golden State Warriors, Derek Fisher got $5 million annually from the Knicks, and Stan Van Gundy received total power with the Detroit Pistons. Kerr and Fisher, like Kidd, had no head coaching experience before they were hired, and Van Gundy had been fired in Orlando.
It was time for a power play, which wasn’t embraced by Nets management, which gave Kidd permission to interview with the Bucks. The teams reached a settlement, with the Nets receiving two second-round picks for the rights to Kidd.
And as he did during his first season in Brooklyn, Kidd danced around the difficult questions. He never really apologized to Drew, who released a statement on Friday thanking the Bucks and referring to his “swift termination.” Kidd never really discussed why he broke the coach’s code by interviewing for a job that remained filled.
Popular coaching candidates such as Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson made sure to avoid discussing openings that were not open yet. It’s a code of conduct because regardless of the relationships between coaches and the rivalries that develop, there remains a healthy respect. Kidd is getting lambasted for his desire to seize an occupied job by taking advantage of a previous work relationship with the owner. But it is also indicative of the life of an NBA coach. Just ask George Karl, who was fired by the Denver Nuggets after winning Coach of the Year.
Kidd’s Bruce Willis-like relentlessness created an opportunity for LionelHollins, last seen fired by the Memphis Grizzlies after leading them to the Western Conference finals. His replacement, Dave Joerger, was in the team’s good graces during the season but was allowed to interview for the Minnesota Timberwolves job until an organization shakeup brought him back to Memphis.
Hollins has now taken over as coach of Nets.
The unpredictability of NBA hiring practices has encouraged some coaches to bypass the code for richer contracts and more power. Such was the case with Kidd, whose behavior was essentially approved by Lasry.
“When you look at myself, I’m a coach and that’s what it’s all about,” Kidd said. “When you’re a player you get criticized and when you’re a coach you get criticized even more because it’s about wins and losses. I’m still a young coach and I’ve still got a lot to learn about coaching.”
Kidd avoided the question about stepping over Drew to get the Milwaukee job. But Lasry acknowledged Kidd’s agent reached out to the Bucks’ owners about joining the club.
“We were asked to keep it confidential and we did and I think in retrospect that was a mistake,” Lasry said. “That was our fault. We shouldn’t have done that. In this process, we made some mistakes.”
So now that it’s done, Kidd has the opportunity to resuscitate his image by acknowledging his error in judgment and by leading the Bucks to prosperity. Honestly, Milwaukee has not been a desirable job over the years through little fault of its own. The organization has had poor luck with draft picks (Andrew Bogut, Brandon Jennings, Larry Sanders) and is hardly considered an attractive free agent destination.
What Kidd does bring to the Bucks that Drew didn’t is prestige and respect. Kidd may have had his issues off the court but he enjoyed a stellar playing career and lasted years after his athletic skills had declined. And he didn’t exactly pick an organization primed for a resurgence.
The Bucks have some talented young players but their best — Sanders — admitted to an issue with marijuana soon after signing a four-year, $44 million contract extension. Onetime cornerstone Ersan Ilyasova has expressed unhappiness with the club, while consecutive years of drafting Yi Jianlian, Joe Alexander, and Jennings didn’t help boost the team’s talent base.
Milwaukee is a tough coaching job and Kidd will have to help the organization rebound or be subjected to scrutiny from an NBA community that considers itself a cordial family, if not friends.
Landing in Milwaukee Parker’s goal from start
It wasn’t that Jabari Parker tanked his workout with the Cavaliers when the club was still trying to make a decision between he and Andrew Wiggins with the first overall draft pick. But the former Duke standout had decided that Milwaukee was the best location to begin his NBA career.
Parker appeared grounded in his thinking and pleased with the results of the draft, when he was taken second overall by Milwaukee just moments after the Cavaliers selected Wiggins.
“Coach [Mike Krzyzewski] has just taught me to remain professional everywhere you go,” said Parker, who averaged 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds in his lone season with the Blue Devils. “Of course it’s a business, but it’s important to represent the character that he taught me at Duke.”
The Bucks have suddenly become a fascinating team with the additions of Kidd and Parker to join Giannis Antetokounmpo, one of the league’s more intriguing players because of his youth and potential. Parker and Antetokounmpo will play together for the first time this week at the Las Vegas summer league.
Parker said he is committed to Milwaukee and his addition will perhaps foster the Bucks’ rebuilding process. He is considered the most NBA-ready of the draft prospects, and he’ll have an opportunity to make an immediate impact for an organization that needs good fortune.
“They’re a young team. I feel like I can contribute right off the bat,” said Parker. “I feel like I’m going to be able to grow with that organization, and I’m trying to be a throwback player, only stick with one team. This might bite me in the butt years from now, but right now I just want to stick with whoever’s rolling with me.”
Emotional journey for sons of ex-Celtics pick
It’s been an exciting and reflective few weeks for Dan Trant Jr. and Alex Trant, the sons of Dan Trant, the final pick of the 1984 draft by the Celtics who was featured on NBA TV’s “The84Draft.” Trant, from Clark University in Worcester, participated in Celtics training camp before enjoying a career overseas in Ireland.
Trant, a bond trader at Cantor Fitzgerald in New York, died in the 9/11 World Trade Center attack, leaving behind two young sons. The sons were invited to last month’s NBA Draft and toured the National September 11 Memorial & Museum along with several draft prospects. On the bus ride to the memorial, the prospects, including Aaron Gordon, NoahVonleh, Dario Saric, T.J. Warren, and Shabazz Napier, were shown a clip of “The84Draft” featuring Trant.
Trant’s sons had not been back to the site in nearly a decade and the experience was moving and emotional. Alex and Dan got to chat with the prospects and take pictures while a personal museum guide explained the exhibits.
“I really didn’t know what to expect; I really didn’t know what the memorial was going to be like,” said Dan, who lives in Dorchester. “It’s just awe-inspiring, peaceful, well put together. I don’t know if it was a good experience, but it was definitely the right time to go down. I really haven’t dealt with the situation of coming back down there and it was a good time to do it.”
The memorial includes reflecting pools that represent each building with each of the 2,983 names of those lost engraved in a statue on the outer edge of the waterfall. The Trant brothers had not seen their father’s engraved name in person but had seen a number of photos. But when they toured the inside of the museum, which featured artifacts, videos, and a screen where visitors could sign their names and offer tributes, they were moved.
“Being inside the museum was definitely a little more emotional,” Dan said. “Seeing the stuff inside had a little more impact. It was groundbreaking seeing his name on the statue. When they invited me to come to this, that’s when it really hit me that I should come. I didn’t have any intention to come down here. Just the fact that I came here with all these people and didn’t have to come here by myself, it was pretty nice that [the NBA] did this for us.”
The past few weeks have served as a celebration of Trant’s career and an awareness of his accomplishments at Clark and in Ireland. The Trant brothers had no idea their father would be featured so prominently in the special as it showed clips of an ESPN telecast of Clark’s Division 3 title game against Wisconsin-Whitewater in 1984. Trant was the 228th and final pick of the 10-round 1984 draft, a personal choice of Celtics president Red Auerbach.
“You almost feel like you’re part of the Celtics organization,” Dan said. “That’s why I inherited the Celtics as my favorite team. That’s why I follow them to this day. It’s something that I definitely do not take for granted and I always tell people about it, and now a lot of people will get to know about it.”
Dan, 25, said his biggest regret is being too young to really witness his father’s professional experience.
“I really didn’t appreciate it at that time,” he said. “That’s why I wish I could go back and ask him those type of questions because that’s what I am interested in life now. It would be nice to go and reach out to some of his teammates in Ireland and hear stories because I really don’t know too much about his playing days.”
Said Alex: “He was very humble. He would never tell us the details. People within the NBA like Jeff Van Gundy talking about him, it’s very special. [My father] never went into what a big deal he was at the time at Clark and in the area. Some of the game highlights I had never seen before, so it was awesome.”
It seems the visit to the memorial answered some questions and also created new memories.
“Just being able to hear people with some experiences with my dad, I feel like I am learning something new about him every day,” Alex said. “I knew him as the family man, my dad. To be able to know him as a basketball player as a kid growing up, it’s very cool.”
With the departure of Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt to the Cavaliers, there was speculation that former BC standout Tyrese Rice may attempt to join the NBA. But after Rice opted out of his Maccabi deal, he signed a three-year contract with Khimki Moscow last week, meaning the former Euroleague Final Four MVP is committed for the long term. Rice went undrafted in 2009 but played for Utah and Sacramento in summer leagues four years ago . . . Former Celtic JaJuan Johnson is playing on the Bucks’ summer league team but he has committed to playing for Besiktas in Istanbul for the upcoming season. Johnson played for the Clippers’ summer league team last season but hasn’t had much of an opportunity to latch onto an NBA roster since Houston released him after the Courtney Lee trade with the Celtics. He played one season with the Celtics but was slow to adjust to the NBA game and became expendable . . . Other notables in the summer league are former first-round pick Donte Greene (Brooklyn), former UConn standout Jerome Dyson (Charlotte), NBA veteran Brian Cook (Detroit), North Carolina rookie James Michael McAdoo (Golden State), Arizona State rookie Jahii Carson (Houston), ex-Celtic Delonte West (Los Angeles Clippers), Ohio State rookie LaQuinton Ross (Los Angeles Lakers), former Sacramento King Tyler Honeycutt (Miami), former NBA standout Josh Howard (New Orleans), former Celtics summer league player Nolan Smith (Oklahoma City), ex-Duke player Seth Curry (Orlando), Ohio State’s AaronCraft (Philadelphia), former Celtic Dionte Christmas (Phoenix), former Celtic MarShon Brooks (Sacramento), 7-foot-5-inch Sim Bhullar (Sacramento), former Oregon State center Eric Moreland (Sacramento), and former first-round pick Daniel Orton (Washington) . . . In some teams’ haste to create salary cap space or escape from contracts, a few interesting free agents emerged, such as James Anderson (formerly of Philadelphia), Ed Davis (Memphis), and Jameer Nelson (Orlando). Injuries slowed Nelson in the past few years but he remains one of the better pick-and-roll guards in the league and he averaged seven assists over the past two seasons, career highs. With point guards being at a premium, Nelson will receive considerable interest. Davis, meanwhile, was supposed to be a cornerstone in Toronto but never developed and he never had an opportunity in Memphis. The Magic also parted ways with point guard Ronnie Price, who appeared to find a niche in Portland but never clicked in Orlando.