Jason Kidd understands how lucky he’s been.
After a hall of fame playing career, he stepped into an NBA head coaching job and in a relatively short time has coached Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Dončić.
But he also spent two years in between leading those superstars when he was an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers, who happened to have LeBron James, and still do.
Kidd has figured out that superstars don’t grow on trees. And when you get to coach not one, but three of them, you kind of learn that it’s a little like a golf professional entrusted with coaching Tiger Woods.
You just try not to mess it up.
“One, it’s an honor to have that opportunity to coach stars like LeBron, Giannis and Luka,” Kidd said before Wednesday’s meeting with the Lakers. “When you look at their IQ and their abilities to dominate and win, you’re just an extra set of eyes and ears when the game is going on or in practice, some things you see that teams are trying to do, to help make the game as easy as possible.
“(That’s how it was) in Milwaukee and LA, and hopefully as we grow here in Dallas, hopefully we’ll have that same opportunity with Luka.”
LA coach Frank Vogel hired Kidd after he parted ways with the Bucks. He said the transition from player to head coach to assistant coach – something that can be a treacherous journey – worked out great for the Lakers.
“It was awesome,” Vogel said. “The biggest thing I learned about Jason is he’s a good person. He was a great teammate in our organization, extremely supportive of me. He came into the Lakers’ job without assistant coach experience and he went into it with the mindset that he wanted to learn that part of it.”
That was the kind of career moment that Kidd needed.
“He went from being a player right to being a head coach,” Vogel said. “There’s a lot of building blocks in terms of a coaching career that he hadn’t done, and was really enthusiastic about doing those things, running the drills, doing all the prep work, doing postgame clean-up film sessions. He was very enthusiastic with it.
“He came in with a great deal of humility and helped us win a championship, was a big part of it.”
It also gave Kidd a chance to learn about James and what makes one of the best players in the history of the game tick. Of course, Kidd was no slouch himself, so he had an inkling about what goes through a legend’s mind.
And, after his time with the Lakers, Kidd also has a better understanding of the longevity James has had.
“He’s calculated,” he said of LeBron. “He understands exactly what he’s doing at all times. It’s a marathon. You look at 19 years, he’s got to be calculated. And right now, he’s got the engine on high.”
Luka to sit longer: Before Wednesday’s game, Kidd announced that Dončić would continue to sit out at least one more game because of his sore left ankle.
The superstar point guard already has missed three games with the injury that has lingered since mid-November and was aggravated last week in Indiana.
The Mavericks have three days off before playing at Minnesota on Sunday. They play a rematch with the Timberwolves next Tuesday in Dallas.
“His ankle is still sore,” Kidd said. “He and the training staff are working hard to get to a space where it’s not as sore.”
Respecting the shooter: Golden State’s Steph Curry surpassed Ray Allen as the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-point shooting on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.
Kidd, who worked himself into a pretty solid 3-point shooter during his long career, said he had great respect for how quickly Curry passed Allen. Curry has played 789 games. Allen played 1,300.
“Incredible, on the biggest stage, it’s incredible the games he did it in,” Kidd said. “Your talking about a great human being, a great person, his work ethic. So it’s incredible what he did. Someone said it best that he’s going to extend that record to where it’s like John Stockton and assists, where no one can ever get there.”
Another record that will last for a long, long time is the blocked shots record, 3,830 by Hakeem Olajuwon, more than 500 than anybody else has ever had and more than 1,600 more than the most by any active player (Dwight Howard).
COVID matters: The Lakers played Wednesday’s game with the specter of COVID -19 hanging over them.
They were without Dwight Howard and Talen Horton-Tucker, both of whom were placed in health and safety protocols.
Vogel said that several other members of the staff and some of their assistant coaches also had to enter protocols.
It was also a concern for the Mavericks going against a team that has been so impacted by the coronavirus.
“There’s a lot going on in the league, just not in sports, but in the world with COVID,” Kidd said. “Teams are starting to pop up with a lot of players, so there’s probably changes coming. With LA coming to town, dinners and all were put off because of that.
“I think Frank said it best two years ago. It can’t be an excuse. The team that doesn’t use COVID as an excuse is probably the team that wins a championship. We all have to do what’s right and try to stay safe. And also, have testing that’s going to come back at a very high level to make sure we can continue the season.”
Kidd said the goal is to keep everybody safe and that while anybody can catch the virus, doing the right thing can make a big difference.
For Vogel, it was a matter of coping with whatever comes up.
“It’s difficult, it’s frustrating,” Vogel said. “You want to have everybody available. But that’s just not the nature of this virus. It’s affecting teams over multiple sports. It’s just one of those things that we feel as an organization, we’re doing everything the right way. We have a fully vaccinated team. We’re adhering to the protocols as best we can.
“And we’re still at the mercy of the virus. You just have to have a mindset that this is the nature of this type of season, have a no-excuse mindset and go out and win games.”
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