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Jason Kidd knows how to develop his big men

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When Jason Kidd was named the new head coach of the Dallas Mavericks, fans uttered a sigh of relief. It’s not just because Kidd once donned the blue and white jerseys and gave them a title, but also because the legendary guard has a similar playstyle with Slovenian sensation Luka Doncic. They know that it’ll be a match made in heaven. 

These fantasies have overshadowed the presence of Kristaps Porzingis. In his first two seasons in Dallas, the Latvian has been struggling to co-exist with Doncic. Porzingis does produce - 20 points, and eight to 10 rebounds is a walk in the park for him. But the thing is, not only does he disappear in some games, but his partnership with Doncic has yet to make a deep playoff run. Fans and analysts, as always, blame the player first and foremost for his shortcomings. They want the Latvian to be consistent, initiate more, be more aggressive, and toughen up his defensive stance. In short: to do everything in his power to make the tandem work.

In their preseason game against the LA Clippers, Porzingis had 15 points, five rebounds, and four rebounds in 15 minutes (note: Porzingis already had three blocks and two steals in one half of action), the Latvian may have finally talked back. It wasn’t aimed at the fans. Instead, at the previous coaching staff. 

“A few things are different. A few things are, I’d say, a bit clearer than last year,”

Kristaps Porzingis, via Callie Caplan of Dallas Morning News

We can view Porzingis’ comment as a childish game of “who’s fault is it?” and endlessly point fingers. We can also take it as his truth. Porzingis feels everything under Kidd is much more organized and conducive to winning. We, outsiders and viewers, are unaware of what happens during practice sessions, training camps, and locker rooms. 

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What we do have is evidence from the past. With regard to Jason Kidd and big men, we know that the head coach put a young Giannis Antetokounmpo in the point guard spot in his stint with the Milwaukee Bucks. It was an adjustment that honed the Greek Freak’s ball-handling, decision-making, and overall knowledge of the game — facets where he’s at an elite level now. 

But back then, it was a move only noticed by a few. Antetokounmpo was just a young lanky stud with a team whose future was uncertain. But for those who kept tabs on this daring move by Kidd, the head coach double-downed on his decision to continue playing Giannis as their point guard. 

“We’re going to go forward with him (Giannis) handling the ball. You can call him point guard, point forward, point center. With him having the ball and the pressure he puts on the defense and his ability to find guys, it’s been a plus for us.

Jason Kidd, via Sports Illustrated.

Before the Bucks won the title, fan-made YouTube clips dissected how Antetokounmpo’s jump shot devolved during Kidd’s era. They noted how Giannis actually had a smooth stroke back then. When Kidd arrived, it turned awkward. His percentages dropped as well.

After the Bucks won the title, the faults in Giannis’ game suddenly became trivial matters. Kidd’s flaws and accomplishments — even the genius move of giving Giannis the keys to orchestrating the offense — were completely forgotten. 

Porzingis’ subtle words of praise for the Kidd regime should remind us once again of the head coach and how his mind works. He sees something different. Something that the naked eye cannot see. Whatever Porzingis experienced in his first few months with Kidd will be unveiled little by little in the coming days. At this point, we can hypothesize that Jason Kidd knows how to work with his big men. He did it with Giannis. There’s a good chance he’ll do it with Porzingis. 

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