The Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls woke up early, left on their sleeved Christmas pajamas and opened the NBA’s Christmas Day slate.
Jason Kidd probably wishes he never got out of bed.
A game after blasting his team for “kind of getting comfortable with losing,” Kidd oversaw Brooklyn’s 95-78 loss to Chicago on Wednesday, an embarrassing – and nationally televised – display for the most expensive basketball team of all time.
Down nine points with 4:26 left in the third quarter, Kevin Garnett already on the bench, Kidd pulled his other four starters.
“I’m going to go with the same group, go with the reserves right now until we get back into the game,” Kidd told ESPN’s Chris Broussard before the fourth quarter, moments after boos reached their peak volume.
Eventually, Kidd reneged on that pledge, because the Nets never got back into the game. By the time Deron Williams and Mirza Teletovic returned with 8:45 left, Brooklyn trailed by 21 points.
Kidd is shifting blame, placing it on an accomplished group of veterans who don’t deserve the public shaming from a rookie head coach.
Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry – who’ve each won a championship – and Deron Williams comfortable with losing? I don’t think so.
The Nets don’t accept losing. They’re incapable of winning.
Their best player, Brook Lopez, is out for the rest of the season, but that’s just an unfortunate break. There are just as significant structural problems with how Brooklyn was assembled.
Last May, the Nets were upset by Chicago in the first-round of the playoffs. Not even eight months – and 10s of millions of dollars added to their payroll – later, the Nets are even less equipped to run with the Derrick Rose-less Bulls.
Brooklyn is older, less cohesive and more poorly coached.
For all Kidd’s showmanship about sitting his starters, it didn’t work. The Nets, in a 17-point loss, played Chicago even with all five starters in the game. In the nine minutes no starters played, Brooklyn was outscored by nine.
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Even with the prospect of falling to 9-19 with a four-game losing streak, Brooklyn had a chance entering this game, because the Bulls had similarly underwhelmed this season. Despite the Eastern Conference falling further behind its Western counterpart, these teams are no longer close to last year’s versions that fought through a seven-game series in the 4-5 matchup. Instead, they hold the conferences ninth- and 12th-best records.
But disappointment is relative, and with Tom Thibodeau at the helm, the Bulls limited theirs.
Both teams started sluggishly until Thibodeau used a two-point guard lineup featuring D.J. Augustin and Kirk Hinrich for the first time all season. With both players capable of pushing the ball and initiating the offense, entry passes suddenly coming from either side of the court, the Nets were lost and surrendered a 12-0 run.
The final results of the Augustin-Hinrich combo, though in just five minutes, were stunning. Offensive rating: 133.3. Defensive rating: 51.2.
It was the type of crafty adjustment Kidd rarely makes, allowing the rigid Thibodeau to run circles around him in even creativity.
Teletovic scored 10 points on five Brooklyn possessions early in the third quarter to briefly give the Nets the lead, but the Bulls overwhelmed Brooklyn without doing anything fancy. Chicago just defended as it always does, and six Bulls scored double digits.
Until the boos rained down during the final seconds – with a few spattering of jeers in between – the Nets fans were mostly quit during the fourth quarter. Only Taj Gibson’s powerful putback dunk really had them buzzing.
Garnett, Pierce, Terry and Williams were similarly quiet. Cameras caught them multiple times sitting on the bench, looking forlorn. In fact, it took a while for any Net to speak up.
When Kidd did, his words ran hallow.
Kidd frequently hangs his head on the sideline. If his team is following his lead, it’s here.
And nowhere else.