NEW YORK—Nets head coach Jason Kidd is in his first year on the sidelines, just months removed from playing with the crosstown-rival Knicks in the final campaign of what will surely be a Hall of Fame playing career.
His coaching tenure hasn’t gotten off to nearly as smooth of a start—Kidd was the NBA’s co-Rookie of the Year, a perennial All-Star point guard and won a championship with Dallas—as Brooklyn has struggled, he demoted former lead assistant Lawrence Frank, once his coach with the Nets, and All-Star center Brook Lopez is out for the season with a broken foot. But his opponents on Christmas Day believe Kidd will find his way in his second career.
“He’s always shown great leadership. Every team that he played with, he always made that team a lot better. I think his playing career, he played with a lot of great players and played for a lot of different coaches. He’s a bright guy. Like anything else, he’s going to get better and better at it, and he also has some great veterans,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I don’t know all those guys. But I know what Garnett and Pierce bring to a team. That team has a lot of ability and leadership. I know how well Garnett and Pierce communicates. I always thought that was one of Jason’s great strengths. So I think he will be an excellent coach.”
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Kirk Hinrich, Kidd’s point-guard counterpart, added: “You never know. But I thought it was a good hire. A fresh name, a guy that everybody is going to respect. He played, what 20, I don’t even know how many years he played in the league. But he’s a Hall of Famer. I think he’s going to be a very good coach.”
When asked if he’d consider coaching after his playing days end, Hinrich responded, “I don’t know. I don’t want to think about it.”
Back to Brooklyn
The Barclays Center is obviously a familiar locale for the Bulls, who won a seven-game first-round playoff series against the Nets last spring, winning Game 7 on the road.
The injury-riddled squad, already without Derrick Rose for the entire season, was also missing Hinrich and All-Star small forward Luol Deng by the end of the series, but a gutsy effort, led by departed guards Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli, an emerging Jimmy Butler and All-Star center Joakim Noah, allowed them to persevere and get the upset.
“We’ll go in there and probably think of Game 7 for a minute,” Thibodeau said. “”But realize it’s a new year. They’ve been playing better lately. Hopefully we can start playing better and just focus on what we have to do. There’s enough outside influences on Christmas Day to let your mind drift too far. You just have to focus on what you have to do.
Added Butler, when asked if returning to Brooklyn stirred up memories for him: “I guess it does, but why not go into every game thinking it’s a playoff and you’re playing for elimination? I think that’s how we have to play right now, against all teams.”
Hinrich happy about Augustin’s arrival
Rather than feel threatened by the addition of point guard D.J. Augustin, who the Bulls acquired after Toronto waived him following their trade with Sacramento, Hinrich has embraced more depth at his position.
“I think it’s huge. DJ is an accomplished player in this league. I think we were really fortunate to be able to pick him up. He has played great. And we’re all really excited to have him,” Hinrich explained. “It’s definitely something I think we’ve needed. He’s another guy who can play pick and roll. He’s a great decision maker, a knockdown shooter. Just me personally, just get my minutes down a little bit so I can just stay healthier. I feel like I’m more effective that way, too.”
Hinrich added he wasn’t surprised by how Augustin has blended in with his new squad.
“Most teams all run similar things. He’s been around a little bit. I was surprised he’s in as good of shape as he’s in,” said the veteran, referring to Augustin’s relative inactivity with the Raptors. “As soon as I heard we picked him up, I was excited.”
While Hinrich started Wednesday, his first game back after missing the Bulls’ five previous contests with a back ailment, and Augustin was relegated to a reserve role after starting the team’s last three games, there’s a possibility the two could play together in the backcourt at times.
“I don’t even know is that’s the plan or not,” Hinrich said. “I love playing with another guy who can handle the ball. It just makes the game that much easier for you. We don’t just have one guy trying to play pick and roll. We can play it on both sides. It keeps the defense honest. His ability to penetrate, shoot, run the team, play pick and roll, that makes a big difference.”