One of the things Jason Kidd plans to implement in his new job as head coach of the Dallas Mavericks is a plan to get more production out of Kristaps Porzingis.
He also wants to make sure the 7-3 forward/center is a viable second option to one of the NBA’s greatest go-to players in Mavs point guard Luka Doncic.
But as far as Kidd is concerned, because Porzingis will finally be able to come into a season without worrying about rehabbing a specific injury, the six-year veteran should be the perfect Robin to Doncic’s Batman.
“This is a positive summer for him,” Kidd said of Porzingis. “He’s healthy. This isn’t a time when he’s coming off an injury.
“I think he’s really excited about this opportunity. He has a skill set that a lot of people don’t have in our league. As a coach, I’m very excited to be able to work with him.”
Owner Mark Cuban also defended Porzingis, who, statistically, did not put up big numbers in the Mavs’ first-round playoff loss to the Los Angeles Clippers last month.
“I think he’s been unfairly maligned,” Cuban said of Porzingis. “During the playoffs he did what he was asked to do — exactly. He put team first and he put his own personal statistics (last) knowing that people were going to give him a hard time, because he said to me and others, he just wants to win.
“But you can’t teach 7-4, and you can’t teach shooting and you can’t teach his ability to create shots. But now he’s going to have chance to have some continuity, and that’s something he has not had since he’s effectively been a rookie. I think he and Luka are going to be a lot better together.”
Doncic currently is overseas as he prepares to help Slovenia in the country’s first appearance in the Olympics. Kidd said he has talked on the phone to Doncic, and added: “But there’s also a new way to (converse), and that’s by text.
“It was a great conversation. He’s excited. He’s focused on his national team.”
Hired to be the Mavs’ head coach on June 28, Kidd was officially introduced Thursday during a news conference at American Airlines Center that also involved introducing former Nike executive Nico Harrison as the Mavs’ new general manager. But Kidd is no stranger to the Mavs, who made him the No. 2 overall pick of the 1994 NBA Draft behind Grant Hill.
During Kidd’s rookie year with the Mavs in the 1994-95 season, fans couldn’t wait to get to the game because they knew he probably was going to do something amazing on the court that night. Fast-forward over 20 years later, fans can’t wait to get to the game nowadays because they know Doncic probably is going to do something amazing on the court that night.
So, does Kidd see a piece of himself in Doncic?
“In ’94 there was no HD, so the things they saw were probably amazing because they didn’t get to see them,” Kidd said while grinning. “Today we have 10K, 12K, so everything is clearer. But Luka’s special.”
Kidd, who coached Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett with the Brooklyn Nets, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton with the Milwaukee Bucks, and LeBron James and Anthony Davis with the Lakers, went on speak of Doncic in glowing terms.
“We talk about his age at 22 years old, he’s been a pro for a while, but he can always get better and I think his appetite is big,” Kidd said. “I’ve been around stars like that in Milwaukee, in LA, and also in Brooklyn.
“Now that you can see things clear, his imagination is at the highest level, which is a great thing to be a part of. Because things were grainy and they weren’t clear, I tried a lot of things and I know I drove my coaches crazy. But I think he still has that flair, that ability to try something. I won’t get mad because I’ve been in those shoes. Just understand my job is to help give him the answers so he can have success and take a lot of that pressure off him.”
Kidd, 48, also plans to take some pressure off Doncic by reducing the number of times he has to bring the ball up the floor.
“I think when you look at the numbers, he has the ball a lot, and he is a special player when he does have the ball,” Kidd said. “But as we continue through this summer and this process of getting to know each other, I will throw him some different questions to get his opinion on playing without the ball, not having to bring the ball up every time to start the play, getting him on the second side.
“Because when you look at the fourth quarter he wears down at times. Not all the time, but he can wear down. Sometimes we can take for granted he is 22 and feel like he’s not going to get tired. But there is longevity to this piece, too, in that we want him to play for a long time.”
This will be Kidd’s third stint as a head coach. He coached the Brooklyn Nets to a 44-38 record and an appearance in the Eastern Conference semifinals during the 2013-14 season.
Kidd also racked up a 139-152 record and two playoff appearances with the Milwaukee Bucks for three-and-a-half seasons (2014-18). Kidd coached the Nets after playing the 2012-13 season for the New York Knicks.
“As a player making that transition to becoming a head coach, you tend to think you know everything,” Kidd said. “Well, that’s not true.”
Kidd, who replaces Rick Carlisle, acknowledged that he had to understand that there were smarter people around him and that he needed to take their advice. He also noted that his job the past two seasons as an assistant coach under Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel was very educational.
“When I got the job under Frank, it was an incredible thing because I didn’t know that I was going to be dealing with — not just a great coach — but a great human being,” Kidd said. “So, what I got to learn for the last two years is something that I didn’t know when I started in Brooklyn.
“I’ve just been very blessed on this journey to meet great people and have these great opportunities. I will take what I’ve learned from Frank and apply it here because I think when you look at Frank’s defense it’s been number one in the last two years, so here in Dallas we’re going to play a little defense, because we know that we can score the ball. We’re going to pay attention to the small things which will lead us down the road of winning that trophy.”
In addition to be the starting point when the Mavs captured the 2011 NBA title, Kidd and the Lakers won the NBA championship last season in the bubble.
“I guess this is hello Dallas for the third time,” Kidd said. “It’s been an incredible journey. I’m a kid in a candy store, because this is a dream come true, and if anyone tells you out there that dreams don’t come true, let them come talk to me.
“I’m excited to be back here in Dallas. I know we have the best fans in the country and I can’t wait for the opportunity for us to raise another banner here.”