After two years as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers, Jason Kidd is back as a head coach for the Dallas Mavericks. This is his first head coaching stint since his four-year tenure with the Milwaukee Bucks. Kidd did pretty well with the Bucks, guiding the team to two playoff appearances. However, he’s most proud of developing Giannis Antetokounmpo into one of today’s elites.
Giving credit where it’s due
“I helped build one of the best players in the world (in Antetokounmpo), which some people give me credit (for) and some don’t — some don’t want to, whatever the fact. But like I said, I got to coach KG, Paul, Giannis, and he wins a championship,”
Jason Kidd, The Athletic.
Kidd was named Bucks head coach in the '14/'15 season. The team was a rebuilding squad then. As such, Kidd’s main task was to develop the players, particularly spot the ones who have the potential to be great. It made sense since Kidd, one of the best point guards of his era, could connect with the players more than most coaches.
It made sense to everyone in the Bucks’ organization that a lanky Greek named Giannis Antetokounmpo could be their centerpiece. It was Kidd who knew precisely how to unlock Giannis’ potential. Given Antetokounmpo’s size and mobility, Kidd felt that the right move would be to turn him into a point guard. A report by Charles F. Gardener of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reveals Kidd’s headspace on the rather unorthodox move.
"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,” Kidd said then.
Stats show Giannis’ rapid development under Kidd. Antetokounmpo averaged 12.7 points on 49.1 percent shooting from the field in their first season together. Come the '17/'18 NBA season (where Kidd was fired midway), Giannis averaged 26.9 points per game on 52.9% shooting.
More than the statistics, Giannis was able to view the game as a point guard. This included knowing the playbook by heart, making important decisions on the fly, and developing decent handles, particularly for someone his size.
Yes, Giannis doesn’t play the point guard nowadays. But as the team’s leader, it’s his job to tell his teammates the proper adjustments that need to be made in-game. We can say that his time as a guard honed these skills. In addition, whenever you see Giannis going coast-to-coast with two dribbles en route to a slam dunk, it would be not very reasonable to say that Kidd’s tweak years before did not aid him.
The current task
Kidd isn’t bitter that most haven't recognized his job in creating the monster that is Giannis. He’s focused on his task as a head coach now. The goal is crystal clear for him: guide Luka Doncic to an NBA title.
“And now my job is to help Luka win a championship. So it’s just being honest. I learned a lot from Frank. Don’t worry about the small stuff. If there’s something to address, address it. (New Mavericks president of basketball operations) Nico (Harrison) is great — great GM. Great owner. I don’t have to worry about all that.”
Jason Kidd, The Athletic
So far, so good. The Mavs sport a 37-25 record for fifth place in the competitive Western Conference. In addition, the Mavs are the fifth-best defensive team this season — a major improvement from last year when they ranked 21st. Though we cannot really tag them as a legitimate title contender, we can safely say that the Kidd-led Mavs are one of the teams to watch out for.