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Report: Jason Kidd wore down Bucks with blaming, sudden turns on players, demanding style

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The Bucks fired Jason Kidd in January.

Why?

Howard Beck of Bleacher Report:

Team officials cringed as Kidd repeatedly blamed the Bucks’ youth for their struggles—an assertion he repeated in mid-January, just days before his dismissal.

“It was constantly, ‘Hey, it was the players’ fault—they’re not doing this, they’re not doing that, they’re too young,'” a Bucks source says.

Sources both inside and outside the organization say Kidd had a tendency to fall in and out of love with players—e.g., demanding a trade for Michael Carter-Williams one day, burying him the next.

Team officials had also grown concerned that Kidd’s demanding, old-school style had worn thin. Players were tuning Kidd out—or already had last season, according to one source with close ties to the team.

Kidd was “putting in massive hours,” a Bucks source says, “and he expected the players” to do the same. “Jason was driving the team a bit hard. And that would have been fine if there was really good results.”

“When people are saying that I’m old-school, it’s not that I’m old-school,” he says. “It’s what it takes to win. And I think we’ve lost a little of that with the younger generation of ‘everybody gets a trophy.'”

The “hard-ass” charges seem to befuddle Kidd—”Because I don’t smile enough during the game? Or do I not smile enough during practice?”—and he insists, “It’s just competition.”

“Maybe I didn’t explain it fully—young is for everyone,” he says. “The owners are young. And they’re going to make mistakes. … So they win 41, as a new owner, what happens?”

(Answer: They expect a steady, continued rise.)

“Doesn’t work that way,” Kidd says. “The master plan got erased once we won 41 games. Because the expectations were, ‘This is what we can do every year.’ But no one’s ever been in this situation but one person, and that’s the head coach. And the head coach is saying, ‘We still have a ways to go.’ But no one is listening.”

This is part of an excellent feature on Kidd, which includes more details about his time in Milwaukee and Brooklyn. I suggest reading it in full. The Nets details color things we only had rough outlines on.

As a player, Kidd was known as a coach-killer. It appears some of those same tendencies did him in as a coach.

Kidd handled his business as much as he could individually. But he didn’t put in enough effort to understand where everyone else was coming from or how he came across.

Working relentlessly is exhausting, physically and mentally. Some people are more internally driven to do it. Others need external motivation – which, on a basketball team, a coach can deliver. Kidd is probably more self-motivated and hardened than most. But it’s no sin of his players if they needed more encouragement. Just criticizing them doesn’t work. That’s a far more effective tactic when used only occasionally in a relationship with a strong foundation. Hard to build that stronger foundation when rarely smiling or oscillating on players or railing against an entire generation with the lame “participation trophies” argument.

Kidd makes a good point about the organization being young. Though roster is only somewhat young, general manager Jon Horst is in his first year, and Marc Lasry and Wes Edens are among the NBA’s newest owners.

But Kidd always sounded self-serving when discussing the team’s youth. It sounded like an excuse for why he should keep his job even the results weren’t good enough. Maybe he didn’t explain his point well enough. Maybe he’s reworking it so it sounds better now.

Either way, the result is the same: Kidd is out of a job. Whether he deserves another is a great lens through which to read Beck’s article.

Report: Lakers eager to use LeBron James at center flanked by top four young players

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Why did the Lakers, after securing LeBron James, sign Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson? Their explanation leaves plenty to be desired.

What will the Lakers do with Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma now that none of those four are being traded for Kawhi Leonard? Their plan there is far more intriguing.

Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report:

“We may not see this on day one, but the coaching staff is eager to see our version of the [Warriors’] Death Lineup with Lonzo [Ball], Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, [Kyle] Kuzma and LeBron,” a second Lakers executive said.

LeBron at center is a dangerous weapon. The Cavaliers showed it more during the 2017 playoffs – to positive effect.

But LeBron isn’t Draymond Green, who makes Golden State’s Death/Hamptons Five Lineup function. Green possesses a unique combination of rim protection and – through his ball-handling and especially passing – ability to get into offense quickly. LeBron isn’t as good at protecting the paint, and though he’s lethal in transition when he wants to be, he’ll be fighting years of slow-down habits.

I also wonder how much LeBron embraces the physical toll of playing center. The Lakers have only JaVale McGee, Ivica Zubac and Mo Wagner at the position. Are they banking on LeBron playing there a significant amount during the regular season?

LeBron would likely accept the role more enthusiastically in the playoffs. But Ball, Hart, Ingram and Kuzma will be tested – at least initially – by the heightened level of play. I’d be wary of overly relying on that lineup.

But this is the best way for the Lakers to get talent on the floor and overcome spacing concerns. I’m absolutely excited to see it in action. Whatever concerns I have about it are only multiplied with other potential Lakers lineups.

Report: Nuggets lottery pick Michael Porter Jr. undergoes another back surgery

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Michael Porter Jr. underwent back surgery in November, missed nearly his entire freshman season at Missouri then slipped to No. 14 in the draft amid injury concerns.

The Nuggets have been noncommittal about their plans for Porter, but they’ve given an eyebrow-raising update.

Nuggets release:

Michael Porter Jr. has undergone surgery of the lumbar spine at The Carrell Clinic in Dallas, Tex. The Procedure was performed by Dr. Andrew Dossett. There is no timetable for his return to basketball participation.

Porter is a talented forward with the length and skill to make a major impact as a scorer.

But, as this latest surgery underscores, drafting him carried terrifying risk. Denver will have to bear that for a while.

Report: Dirk Nowitzki to re-sign with Mavericks for $5 million

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Dirk Nowitzki is set to play his 20th season – breaking Kobe Bryant’s record for most seasons with a single franchise and tying Kevin Garnett, Robert Parish and Kevin Willis for most seasons in the NBA.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks declined Nowitzki’s $5 million team option, but he was never signing elsewhere. He was either going to retire or play for Dallas.

Once he decided to return, the only question was money.

The Mavericks declined Nowitzki’s option to maximize their flexibility for upgrades, namely signing DeAndre Jordan. Once Yogi Ferrell agreed to an absurdly team-friendly contract, Dallas had enough cap space left to give Nowitzki his team-option amount. If necessary, he would have taken the $4,449,000 room exception.

Nowitzki has had a great career, and this could be his farewell tour. But he also remains a helpful rotation-level player. Though he’s a defensive liability, his outside shooting as a big goes a long way toward floor spacing.

Report: Mavericks re-signing Yogi Ferrell for less than qualifying-offer salary with second year unguaranteed

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The Mavericks expected Yogi Ferrell to accept his qualifying offer.

Turns out, they’ll keep him on an even more team-friendly deal than the one he could have unilaterally signed.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

This is an awful deal for Ferrell.

As reported, he’ll earn between $2,548,077 and $2,760,417 next season. That range is less than his qualifying offer – which would have paid him a fully guaranteed $2,919,204 next season.

That reduction is acceptable if Ferrell got something in exchange – but he gave Dallas the concession by adding an unguaranteed second year. If he plays well, the Mavericks will keep him at a cheap salary. If he doesn’t, they’ll waive him for no cost. They have all the control.

The promise of the backup shooting guard job is probably just lip service. Teams don’t stick by that if the player struggles. If he produces, he would have gotten the job anyway.

Dallas has plenty of point guard types – Dennis Smith Jr., Luka Doncic, J.J Barea, Jalen Brunson and Ferrell. Rick Carlisle uses two of them simultaneously often enough that Ferrell should land in the rotation. But it’s far from a lock.

With this deal, Ferrell is taking all the risk and the Mavericks are getting all the upside.