Dan Feldman

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Bucks coach Jason Kidd has some really bad ideas about protecting late leads

Leave a comment

Remember when Jason Kidd appeared to be in completely over his head as coach of the Nets?

Kidd, now coaching the Bucks, has come a long way since.

But not too far.

With the Bucks up three and 1.4 seconds left in their win over the Cavaliers last night, Kidd ordered Khris Middleton to intentionally miss a free throw.

Kidd, via Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“We talked about it as he walked to the free throw line,” Kidd said. “My first response was to miss the second one. We’ll take the bet of someone making it from the other side of the floor. … If we did make that free throw, our luck they get it in-bounds at half-court and we foul the 3-point shooter and it’s a four-point play. We’ll take our chances with them heaving a full-court shot.”

LeBron James grabbed a rebound and came incredibly close given the circumstances – which still isn’t close at all – to making a game-tying full-court shot.

Allowing Cleveland that opportunity was a preventable error. Middleton making the free throw would have clinched the game. If he could tell Middleton to miss, why couldn’t Kidd tell his players not to foul under any circumstance? Absent a four-point play – which would have been practically impossible if the Bucks decided to avoid fouling – the Cavs had no path to victory. Kidd allowed one.

It’s not the first time Kidd implemented a silly strategy while protecting a late lead.

Up four against the Pistons, who had the ball with 9.6 seconds left, Milwaukee intentionally fouled a couple weeks ago.

Kidd, via Velazquez:

“They’re trying to play the game of quick twos to save their timeouts, so we’ll just play the free-throw game with them,” Kidd said. “I believe that my guys will make the free throws. They miss one and it works. It’s a free-throw game no matter what, but we wanted to send them to the line and it worked out.”

Intentionally fouling up four might be logical in the right circumstances. Trying to prevent a quick two absolutely isn’t sound reasoning. Kidd saw the Pistons trying to get a quick two and gave them a good chance at an even quicker two points via free throws.

The Bucks fouled Reggie Jackson, a career 86% free-throw shooter. He’s prone to fatigue late in games, so maybe that mark doesn’t represent his true odds on those specific attempts. But the risk that comes with extending the game, especially with more inbound passes, always dangerous, doesn’t come close to offsetting that.

The Bucks won both games, but teams up three with 1.4 seconds left and up four with 9.6 seconds almost always win anyway. If Kidd keeps whiffing on these strategic decisions, though, Milwaukee will blow more than its fair share of these leads.

This should also raise questions about just what else Kidd doesn’t understand.

Watch Isaiah Thomas react to learning of Kyrie Irving trade (video)

8 Comments

Isaiah Thomas is clearly still bitter about the Celtics trading him to the Cavaliers.

Just as he was returning from celebrating his wedding anniversary in Miami, Thomas received a call from Celtics president Danny Ainge last August informing him of the Kyrie Irving trade. The Players Tribune has video of Thomas shortly after that call.

Thomas:

That’s crazy.

What are you talking about? My kids about to start school. Off the strength. After everything I went through, n—. You’re not supposed to do that. But it’s – I mean, if that’s what he wants. Danny’s like that. But, I mean, I’m not tripping. It’s just crazy that they would do that. Like, I’m not mad like, “N—, you…” I’d be mad if I went to a weak-ass team.

We going to win the Finals, anyway. That’s what’s crazy. But it’s just like, damn, after all I do for – the city going to be mad as f—.

Nobody knows. For him to call me – he didn’t tell nobody. I was cool in Boston. I knew my way around.

I need to go unpack all this s—. Then, I’ll feel a little better.

Thomas’ prior public comments since the trade had been softened by time to process it. This video is illuminating and raw.

Watch how he explains the trade to his family, including his sons. This is The Players Tribune at its best, providing access unavailable elsewhere.

Jimmy Butler on Nikola Jokic busting his lip in Olympics: ‘I still owe him’

Elsa/Getty Images
1 Comment

Jimmy Butler got a bloody lip from Nikola Jokic in Team USA’s gold-medal-game win over Serbia in 2016.

Butler at the time, via Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune:

“Messed my swag up. Now I can’t take no photos, and the honeys are not gonna look at my pictures.”

Butler now, via Jerry Zgoda of the StarTribune:

“I still owe him,” Butler said. “He busted my lip in the Olympics, so don’t think I’ve forgotten about that. He did, on a screen. He caught me with one of those chicken wings. It’s OK. I don’t forget, though.”

Butler’s Timberwolves face Jokic’s Nuggets tonight.

I think Butler is mostly kidding about avenging the bloody lip. But Butler is so competitive, I don’t know.

It’s worth keeping a closer eye on every screen involving Butler and Jokic, just in case.

Did LeBron James push down Giannis Antetokounmpo and stomp on him? (video)

Leave a comment

The Bucks beat the Cavaliers in a thriller last night, but the otherwise-fantastic game featured a questionable moment.

Did LeBron James push down Giannis Antetokounmpo and stomp on him? Or did Antetokounmpo just lose his balance, then LeBron took an awkward step to disengage their tangled legs?

I can’t know LeBron’s intent. I can’t even see exactly what happened here, as the score graphic covers part of the sequence.

But I know other players – to use a cross-sport example, Ndamukong Suh – wouldn’t receive the benefit of the doubt.

At least Antetokounmpo wasn’t hurt. He sprung right up, leaving this to be forgotten – unless something else suspect occurs again.

Amid Celtics rumors, Anthony Davis openly wonders whether Pelicans have his back

Chris Graythen/Getty Images
8 Comments

Anthony Davis has repeatedly expressed loyalty to the Pelicans amid their turmoil.

This is the most doubt I’ve ever heard him cast about his future in New Orleans.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Boston has remained vigilant on the possibility of acquiring Davis, and Davis knows it. However, the Pelicans have no intention of trading an all-world talent under contract through 2021, no matter the return.

Before the Cousins trade a year ago, though, Davis kept hearing talk of the Celtics trying to trade for him. He walked into GM Dell Demps’ office and asked about it.

“He told me that [Boston] was calling, but nothing was going to happen,” Davis said. “At the same time, though, you see how organizations treat players. Isaiah Thomas. DeMarcus [Cousins] told me that the [Kings] told him that he wasn’t going to get traded, but they traded him. Isaiah took his team to the Eastern Conference finals, and they traded him.

“It makes you wonder: Does this organization really have my back? I’ve been loyal to this organization. I love it here. I love this team. I think we’re moving in the right direction. DeMarcus, Rondo, some other players that are helping us, but people get judged on winning. And I want to win.

“You look at the Warriors, Cleveland, Boston,” he said. “They lose Gordon [Hayward], they’re still playing well. KD-Steph-Draymond-Klay. They play so well with each other. They move the basketball. They don’t care who scores. Steph and Draymond are out, and they still won. KD is out. They still win.

“That’s the way the league is now. I don’t see anyone winning without three or four All-Stars. … I was in the [MVP] conversation in my third year, and we didn’t win. We went to the playoffs, got swept, and I dropped out of all that so fast. It’s about winning. You can have all the numbers in the world, but you better win. That’s what it is. This whole league, everything is about winning. Every award. Everything. It’s all about winning.”

Davis is finally flexing his muscles. He has the clout to demand more from the Pelicans, but he has been passive in exercising it.

The result: New Orleans has missed the playoffs in four of his five full seasons and not won a single postseason game with him. The Pelicans are 15-15 this year, trying to claw into the playoffs, where they’d likely lose early.

New Orleans miraculously got Davis a second star last season in DeMarcus Cousins. How the Pelicans get the third, let alone fourth, star Davis covets is anyone’s guess. New Orleans has squandered years of first-round picks. With Davis and Cousins, the Pelicans are unlikely to draft high enough to get another blue-chip prospect. Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore are fine players but unlikely to develop into stars, though their salaries (and Solomon Hill‘s and Omer Asik‘s) will keep New Orleans from pursuing star free agents.

Meanwhile, the clock ticks toward Davis’ 2020 player option.

I believe Davis preference is to win in New Orleans, and this interview is an attempt to pressure the Pelicans into making that happen. But what if he ultimately decides he must choose between winning and New Orleans? I don’t know which he’d pick, though the history of stars in his position suggests winning is the more likely priority.

Unfortunately for Davis, I’m not sure what the Pelicans can do anymore. They’re somewhat locked into this middling team. But if they have a way to upgrade his supporting cast, this warning-shot interview ought to kick them into high gear.