Stan Van Gundy: “I don’t think this is on Jason Kidd”

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With the Nets off to a 5-13 start in the East, there is a lot of finger pointing going on. Losing does that.

That includes fingers at first-year coach Jason Kidd, who recently demoted lead assistant Lawrence Frank to be basically the highest paid video coordinator in the NBA. The Nets offense has been isolation heavy, and their defense is the worst in the NBA right now (using points allowed per possession). The Nets have battled injuries but good teams still find ways to win through that, the Nets have not come close.

However, former NBA coach Stan Van Gundy said this isn’t on Kidd — he was put in an impossible situation. Van Gundy was on the Armani and Eyton show on NBC Sports Radio (featuring former New York Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer and Eytan Shander who you know from the PBT Podcasts) and said this:

“I don’t think this is on Jason Kidd. Some people have really taken a lot of what I said about him as being critical of him but it’s not. I think if you look at Mark Jackson or Doc Rivers when he started, guys who have not been assistant coaches before they got their NBA head jobs, what they had was situatons where at least in their first year the expectatipons weren’t that high. So you had the freedom to make some mistakes, sorta out of the scruitiny, at least the national scrutiny, of everybody.

“Jason Kidd entered a job with very high expectations, for a guy who never coached I think that’s really, really difficult. He may grow into a very, very fine coach — but no one is a great coach when they first start. I’m sure Doc Rivers would tell you in all honesty that he is a far better coach now than he was when he first started. Not to say he wasn’t good when he started but you get a lot better over time. Jason Kidd was expected to be great.”

He’s right that management put together this roster and let Kidd talk them into coaching it (Kidd lobbied heavily for this job). They took the risk.

We really don’t know how good a coach Kidd will be, even this season — how will the Nets look when Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Paul Pierce and Andrei Kirilenko are all healthy and part of the rotation? The Nets were without Williams through training camp, which was a setback in building chemistry because D-Will has to control the offense (and play like an All-Star) for this team to win. In his absense, their offense had everyone getting touches and it quickly devolved into isolation sets that were easier to defend.

The other problem in Brooklyn is with the age and contracts of Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and others the championship window is one, maybe two years. Kidd doesn’t have the luxury of time to learn on the job, let alone learn on a team plagued with injuries.

But is that Kidd’s fault?

Joel Embiid scores over Carmelo Anthony, then they exchange words (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid gives zero… well, you know where I’m going with that.

Embiid trolls the world and backs down from no man, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Late in the fourth quarter of the barn burner between the Thunder and 76ers Friday night, Embiid backed ‘Melo down and scored over him, then did a little jawing — which Anthony didn’t appreciate.

I love that Embiid egged on the Sixers crowd after this. He knows his audience.

Embiid talks a lot — A LOT — but he is backing it up.

For example, in the first overtime Russell Westbrook thought he made a drive that was going to win the game, and Embiid rejected him.

If you did not watch this game, go find a replay. This is the new best game of the season.

Rudy Gobert leaves game vs. Celtics with likely knee sprain. Again.

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Rudy Gobert missed 11 games this season due to a bone bruise in his knee. While the Jazz defense suffered as should have been expected with their anchor gone, their offense found a groove without him — and with more Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors — resulting in Utah going 7-4 with their star center out.

Now the Jazz will be without him again for a while — he seems to have sprained his left knee just minutes into Friday night’s game against the Celtics when Favors fell back into him. That is the same knee he injured before. Gobert was forced to leave and will not return to the game.

If that diagnosis holds, it will be weeks again the Jazz will be without Gobert.

The Jazz know how to play without Gobert. Favors moves to center and while he’s not near the same defender his offensive skills got them buckets and opened up the floor. The rookie Mitchell, as well as Ricky Rubio at points, took advantage of it to give the Jazz a top-10 offense with Gobert out. They need to find that groove again.

Still, Utah needs Gobert back and himself to really reach the heights they are capable of.

Veteran NBA official Monty McCutchen to be head of referee development, training

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After 25 seasons running up and down the NBA hardwood and refereeing more than 1,400 games, NBA official Monty McCutchen got a promotion.

He officiated his last game Thursday night in Minnesota and will move to a desk at the league office where his new title is Vice President, Head of Referee Development and Training.

“Monty has earned the respect of players, coaches and his peers during an exemplary career as an NBA official,” said Senior Vice President, Head of Referee Operations Michelle D. Johnson (who started on the job in October).  “He understands as well as anyone what it takes to be an outstanding referee and how the league can best support its officials.  With his wealth of insight and experience, Monty is uniquely suited for a leadership role in our officiating program.”

“I’m excited for the opportunity to channel my passion for the officiating profession in a new way,” McCutchen said.  “While I’ll miss officiating games, I’m grateful to continue working with our incredibly talented referee staff as part of an organization so dedicated to excellence and innovation.”

Despite what some fans like to blast on Twitter (especially during the playoffs), NBA officials are the best trained and flat-out best basketball referees in the world (if you don’t think so, watch the college/scab referees from the last lockout of the refs, it was painful). Could they improve? Sure. Hopefully, McCutchen can help do that in his new position.

Kristaps Porzingis officially day-to-day, questionable vs. OKC

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Knicks fans can exhale now.

There was understandable concern after face of the franchise Kritaps Porzingis had to leave the game in Brooklyn Thursday night following a non-contact injury.

Turns out there is nothing to worry about. After the game, Porzingis spoke to the media and was standing on the leg, a good sign. By Friday, after a day of treatment, he was doing well. Officially Porzingis is day-to-day and may sit out Carmelo Anthony‘s return to Madison Square Garden Saturday, but the injury is nothing serious. Ian Begley of ESPN has the details.

Porzingis’ knee was “worked on” on Friday and the discomfort in his knee decreased, league sources told ESPN. It is unclear if Porzingis underwent an MRI or had X-rays to further determine the extent of the injury but sources say he did not undergo significant testing because it wasn’t warranted based on the state of the injury.

Good. We don’t need another star down with a major injury this season.

Especially Porzingis, who has led the Knicks to a 15-13 record (sixth in the East, in the playoffs) while putting up All-Star numbers: 25.5 points per game, shooting 39.5 percent from three, plus grabbing 6.6 rebounds a game. Maybe more impressive is how he has anchored a solid Knicks defense this season with his rim protection. Stay healthy and he should make his first All-Star team this season.