ARLINGTON — From Jason Kidd’s seat over six thousand miles away from Tokyo, Japan, he says there’s nothing like a little cohesiveness that can fix whatever it is that ails Team USA’s men’s basketball squad.
Counting exhibition games, Team USA has surprisingly lost three of their last four games. That includes their Olympic Games opener to France, 83-76, this past Saturday.
But Kidd believes Team USA coach Gregg Popovich will right the ship and get his troops pointed in the right direction in time to make another serious run at the Olympic gold medal.
“They’re just a little rusty,” said Kidd, who was hired on June 28 as the new head coach of the Dallas Mavericks. “In Pop we trust. Pop will get them right.
“Sometimes to put a team together it takes some time to get chemistry. Hopefully that loss against France wakes us up that we have to be a little bit more in a sense of urgency. We can’t wait. Hopefully we’ll show that in our next game.”
Kidd, who won Olympic gold medals in 2000 and 2008, and was the USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year in 2007, steadfastly believes the United States will have a much better showing throughout the reminder of these Olympics. And he doesn’t blame the compressed schedule the NBA players just endured as a reason for the unexpected losses on the international stage.
“I think Team USA will say there’s no excuse,” Kidd said. “France was the better team the other night, but we have to as a team understand what’s important and I believe that they’ll do that.”
During his Olympic experience, Kidd was never on the losing end of any games. The USA went undefeated in Sydney, Australia, in winning the gold medal in 2000, and also ran the table in winning the gold medal in Beijing, China, in 2008.
“I didn’t have any losses,” Kidd said. “I was lucky to have talented teammates and head coaches.”
Kidd, who threw out the first pitch Tuesday night at Globe Life Field before the Texas Rangers defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-4, also knows he’s lucky to have a talented point guard to work with in the Mavs’ Luka Doncic. The third-year playmaker put on the show of all shows on Sunday night as he finished with 48 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in leading Slovenia to a 118-100 triumph over Argentina.
“Luka was incredible the other night,” Kidd said. “His first debut on the Olympic stage. I think everybody here in Dallas stayed up until 11:30 to watch, and he didn’t disappoint.
“After he went 5-for-5, I started to think, ‘OK he has 17 points, what a great start.’ He had 48 points and it was just incredible.”
How incredible? So incredible that Kidd couldn’t wait to congratulate his two-time first-team All-NBA playmaker.
“He’s always up for the challenge,” Kidd said. “I text with him and told him I enjoyed watching him play, but I just love the spirt of his team right now.
“They’re a lot of fun to watch.”
Kidd believes the Mavs will again be a fun team to watch next season. He also believes 7-3 center/forward Kristaps Porzingis can return to the form that earned him a spot on the 2018 Eastern Conference All-Star team, especially since he plans on utilizing his skills a lot in the low post.
“I think we, sometimes as coaches, we ask players to do something different that helps the team,” Kidd said. “I think (former Mavs coach) Rick (Carlisle) asked KP to do something for the team and KP did it.
“I would like to put KP in different situations so we can take advantage of his skill sets.”
As a bonafide superstar of epic proportions in high school in Oakland, Kidd was named the Parade and USA Today Player of the Year, and a McDonald’s All-American. He also was twice voted as the California high school Player of the Year.
But while he was a wizard with the basketball and played two seasons at the University of California before becoming the No. 2 overall pick by the Mavs in 1994, Kidd said his skill set as a baseball player didn’t get the attention it deserved.
“I got to Cal and I wanted to play on the Cal baseball team, but didn’t get that opportunity due to leaving school early,” Kidd said. “So I’m not going to say they tricked me, but I didn’t get to play my freshman year and I thought I was going to play my sophomore year.
“I worked out with the guys, but unfortunately it didn’t work out. I played through high school. I love watching baseball, I Iove playing baseball.”
Now, as far as baseball is concerned, Kidd is relegated to playing catch with Chance, who is his 11-year old son.
“I don’t know if he calls it that, but I do,” Kidd said. “About a month ago we played catch.
“He’s a baseball player. He likes catching. I don’t know if he thinks I’m a pitcher, but we worked on some drills.”
While Kidd noted that the two baseball “positions” which he played were “center field and bench,” he was taken aback that the Rangers wanted him to throw out the first pitch on Tuesday night.
“I threw out the first pitch in 2013,” Kidd said. “It’s an honor to be back home and be able to have the opportunity to throw out the first pitch for the Rangers.”
In addition to basketball and baseball, Kidd also spoke about gymnast Simone Biles, who withdrew from the team gymnastics competition of the Olympic on Tuesday so she can focus on her mental health.
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of pressure when you’re talking about our athletes living up to the hype,” Kidd said. “But I’m proud of her and it’s brave of her to come out and say that, because a lot of times we don’t know the truth and we have to guess.
“But she talked about mental health and how serious it is. I just hope that it doesn’t stop her from achieving her goals, because she’s a great athlete and there’s a lot of people who want to see her be successful.”
As far as Thursday’s NBA Draft is concerned, the Mavs don’t have a pick. That left Kidd to say:
“Analytics says we have zero picks, so it could be a nice dinner that we’ll have when we’re all together,” he said. “But I think with (owner Mark) Cuban and (general manager) Nico (Harrison), if there’s an opportunity there we know Mark will evaluate and Nico will evaluate and see if there’s something that can help the team.”