Tough losses are inevitable. No team goes through a long NBA season without experiencing their unfair share of agonizing losses that keeps them tossing and turning in bed into the wee hours of the morning.
But when the Dallas Mavericks suffers a tough loss – as was the case during Wednesday’s heartbreaking 107-104 setback in overtime to the Los Angeles Lakers – forward Maxi Kleber said coach Jason Kidd has this unique way of calming the waters and turning the situation into a valuable teaching tool.
“It was a tough loss, but he’s always positive, staying positive and trying to push us,” Kleber said. “It was a hard-fought game.
“I think everybody on the court gave it their all. We know we just got to continue to get better and get the next win.”
Kleber, though, was quick to note that although Kidd is a player’s coach, he’s not the type of coach to go easy on his players just for the sake of going easy on them.
“When he feels like we’re not playing our hardest and we’re not playing well because of that, then he gets on our (rear ends),” Kleber said. “But games like (the Laker game) when we played well and with the right intentions — everybody fought and tried to win — he’s very positive and is trying to push us because he knows that everybody wants to win and does the right thing.
“He played the game for a long time himself, so he’s trying to push us, stay positive and come back like (Thursday) and practice and get better.”
Kidd knows the Mavs had several chances to ward off the Lakers and walk away with a victory. When LeBron James misfired on a three-pointer after the Lakers were down three points, Kristaps Porzingis and Kleber simultaneously had their hands on the defense rebound with about six seconds left.
But the ball somehow got free, and former Mavs guard Wayne Ellington scooped it up and buried a heart-stopping three-pointer that tied the game with two seconds remaining in regulation that ultimately sent it into overtime. Kidd was trying to call timeout when Porzingis and Kleber had the ball, but to no avail.
“We were down (10 points) in the first quarter and we fought and took the lead,” Kidd said. “I thought we fought the whole night. There were a lot of positives. Details, we have to get better at. But it comes down to we had the ball for five-tenths of a second in our hands where we had Maxi and KP with the rebound.
“(Anthony Davis) knocks it out and it rolls to Wayne, and Wayne is in the corner and he makes the three to send it into overtime. But again, the guys fought, the ball moved, our defense again was at a high rate against a very powerful offensive team. We were in a position to win that game, but unfortunately we didn’t.”
Kidd explained that he’s always been a glass half-full type of person as a player and a coach. Thus, he was as positive to his players as he could be following the disappointing loss to the Lakers.
“We’ll learn from it,” Kidd said. “The guys felt like they put themselves in a position to win. We were so close. The ball, if it doesn’t roll to Wayne in the corner, we’ll probably win that game. Or if we hold onto the rebound it becomes a free throw game.
“I’m not saying that automatically we’ll win it, but it’ll put us in a better seat. The guys did everything to execute the game plan. We had great looks. We just made mistakes at the wrong time.”
Kidd acknowledged that his approach was similar in theory during his previous coaching stops with the Brooklyn Nets (2013-’14) and Milwaukee Bucks (’14-’18), and that learning from the losses in a positive way is his calling card.
“In Brooklyn, I had a different team,” Kidd said. “There were mostly Hall of Famers on that team.
“So you can talk to them and they would tell you the small things of rebounding the ball, boxing out or just some of the things that we have to do better. . .and then turn the page and then move forward.
“The Milwaukee team, they were all young. They were all young 20s, and you have to take a different approach, or you might have a practice the next day and focus on one area. Maybe it’s rebounding drills, or something else. Every team’s different.”
So too, is every coach.
When asked what’s the biggest difference in term of communication styles between Kidd and the Mavs previous coach – Rick Carlisle — Kleber said: “I think right now because everything is new and (new) coaching staff, new players, everybody has a chance to start over. So, we’re very open with everything and how things are communicated. Everything is fresh, so you have to talk. It gives you like a different starting point on how to communicate.
“We’ve been very open-minded with our thoughts. (Kidd) wants our input as players because he thinks everybody understands basketball and is a smart player, so he wants to hear all the options. That goes back and forth. He wants to hear our opinion and we hear his opinion, and we try to communicate as a team and figure things out.”
Is that a stark departure from the Carlisle regime?
“Obviously it is different,” Kleber said. “When everything is new you have to talk to figure out things. If you come to a system that’s already been set up a little bit, things might be run different.
“But the way it is now is we really talk. We address problems openly in front of everybody if there’s issues with how we play or what individuals do or this or that. It’s a very open locker room when it comes to talking.”
And that’s the way Kidd wants it. He doesn’t want a locker room where the tension is so thick it can be cut with a knife. That, in his estimation, is counter productive.
“I think we’ve got a great group of young guys that fight,” Kidd said. “We’ve kind of been through a lot already early in the season.
“I think when you look at the injuries, the next man up mentality, being patient to play, I think this group is tough-minded and they always find a way to bounce back.”
STAYING OUT OF COVID’S WAY: With COVID-19 running rampant around the NBA and around the world, coach Jason Kidd said his team is doing its best to stay out of harm’s way.
But when situations arise like Thursday — when it was announced that Los Angeles Lakers guards Russell Westbrook and Avery Bradley had entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols — it invariably makes the situation difficult. In Wednesday’s game against the Mavs, Westbrook played 42 minutes and Bradley played 24, so obviously they were in the faces of the Mavs’ players for quite a bit of time.
Over 60 NBA players have entered the health and safety protocols this season, including 47 in the month of December. So how does all of this manifest itself?
“This isn’t new, this has been around, so we’re just taking it one day at a time,” Kidd said. “That’s all you can do, because tomorrow could be different where you can have positive tests.”
Last year the Mavs led the NBA in games loss due to health and safety protocols as seven players missed 56 games. (The Boston Celtics were second with 53 games missed due to health and safety protocols). This year none of the Mavs have had to miss any games due to the health and safety protocols.
“It’s just the responsibility of trying to do the right thing,” Kidd said.” And then also I think the honesty of if you don’t feel well is reporting that so that you can be tested and then find out if you’re positive or negative. And then do the precautions of what you have to do is probably go home, and then isolate if you are positive.
“It’s just a communication thing. Covid again, has been here. Dallas went through it and had a tough stretch last year with it. There are some teams in the league that are struggling with it. But I think it’s going to touch everyone at some point.”
Last season forward Maxi Kleber missed 11 games after testing positive for COVID-19.
“My family is in Germany, so they’re starting to have different rules again and shut down things a little bit,” Kleber said. “If was just a matter of time.
“But right now the NBA has been hit pretty hard. I guess we’ll see how it continues and if we can stay healthy.”
BRIEFLY: A quirk in the schedule have the Mavs in a period where they have three days with no games before they return to the court to battle the Minnesota Timberwolves in Minneapolis, MN, on Sunday at 7 p.m. The Mavs did some shooting and lifted weights on Thursday, were off today and will resume practices on Saturday before flying out to Minnesota. Coach Jason Kidd said: “It’s interesting that you almost have the old school All-Star break here, but we have been going here for a while without a break. So we’ll have some time to regroup, to get organize, to heal up and then get ready for the push before the All-Star break.”. . .Point guard Luka Doncic will not make the trip to Minnesota. He will instead remain in Dallas as he recuperates from soreness in his left ankle. Sunday’s game will be the fourth in a row Doncic has missed while dealing with his injury. He also missed a pair of games against the Phoenix Suns and one against the Los Angeles Clippers while nursing sprains in his left ankle and left knee. . .In that game against the Lakers, the Mavs held them to just 14 points in the second quarter. But the Lakers rattled off another 14 points in the five-minute overtime session. “They’ve got three future Hall of Famers over there,” Kidd said. “We did everything to put ourselves in position (to win), no matter if they scored 33 in the first quarter or 14 in overtime. We had our opportunities and that’s all you can ask for against a team that’s playing really well. They’re trending in the right direction and we had them on the ropes. We just couldn’t close the door.” Kleber amplified that comment by saying: “I guess the loss overall is frustrating. It doesn’t really matter how it went down. We had the game in our hands. Losing itself sucks, especially at home when you have a chance to win it.”. .The Mavs’ Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kleber, and the Lakers’ Wayne Ellington, Russell Westbrook and Austin Reaves, all buried notable critical clutch three-pointers down the stretch of Wednesday’s game. Kleber said: “They said it was one of the craziest back-and-forth with tying and making threes – or going up with threes. So I have not been involved in one like that.”. .Kleber pointed out that the Mavs are much improved on the defensive end of the court this season. “We have clear paths on what we have to do on defense — how we rotate and all that stuff,” he said. “And I think it helps many people, because we often do the same schemes no matter what and everybody’s ready and we repeat it every day. In my opinion we’re doing a better job. And also there’s more will with everybody wanting to stop their opponent, so overall I think we’ve improved.”
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