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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.

Bulls coach Jim Boylen: ‘It’s going to be rough for a while’

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For the past few years, as the lead assistant to Fred Hoiberg with the Bulls, Jim Boylen got to be the “bad cop” to Hoiberg’s more mild personality. When Hoiberg was fired and Boylen moved into the big chair, he ramped up that old-school style — he called out the team’s conditioning and had them running suicides and doing pushups in practice (things rarely seen at the NBA level). Boylen was running long, grueling practices — including one the day after the team got back from a four-game road trip. He had film sessions right after games when guys were still emotional. Boylen did hockey substitutions a couple of times, taking out all five starters at once.

When he called for a practice the day after a back-to-back that ended with a 56-point loss to the Celtics, players pushed back. There were team meetings called by the players (and coaches, there’s a lot of people trying to spin this). Boylen said this is how he coached and he learned from Greg Popovich, the players had to trust him, and the players said you’re no Gregg Popovich and that trust is not there yet. It’s earned, not given.

The day after a series of meetings, the tone was a little softer, although Boylen was not about to back down. He said that it was only a couple of players who pushed back against the practice, not all of them, and he is clearly frustrated in this NBC Sports Chicago video.

Boylen also admitted things would not be easy, but he wants the players to trust him, as several Bulls writers Tweeted.

Boylen feels he’s in the right place. Will the players learn to trust him? One day after the meetings, things appeared better.

That’s easy to say at practice, we’ll see what it’s like when adversity hits.

Warriors named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of Year

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The three-time NBA champion Golden State Warriors are the fourth team to be honored as Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year .

The Warriors join the 1980 U.S. hockey team, the 1999 U.S. Women’s World Cup soccer squad and the 2004 Boston Red Sox as the other team honorees.

Sports Illustrated announced the winner Monday, and editor-in-chief Chris Stone said they have been thinking of some way to honor the Warriors during their run of three titles in four years. He also acknowledged that there were a couple years where Steph Curry has been in the conversation.

“There is something transcendent about the team where the sum of their parts was apparent from the beginning,” Stone said. “What they have built into a dynasty is a function of empirical success. They’re really a generational team. I don’t know if, in my lifetime, there has been a team where the pieces have blended so beautifully together.”

Stone also said that the Warriors’ honor is more about the celebration of the organization doing something unique over an extended period while the other teams were honored for what they did in a certain year.

Alexander Ovechkin, who led the Washington Capitals to their first Stanley Cup title, Tiger Woods and LeBron James also received consideration, but Stone said the Warriors felt like the favorite when they repeated as NBA champions.

“In the same way they play, they seem to speak in a single voice,” Stone said. “The unity of message with the Warriors is the same way we refer to LeBron and his answering some of the hard questions. They did it forcefully, but also civilly, in a way that helps advance conversations.”

The Warriors will receive the award during a ceremony in Los Angeles on Tuesday that will air on NBCSN on Thursday.

“This is an incredible honor and one that certainly signifies our Strength in Numbers philosophy as a team and organization,” Warriors President of Basketball Operations/General Manager Bob Myers said. “Our success is due to the contributions of every single player, coach and staff member in our organization; for Sports Illustrated to recognize this unique dynamic is truly special.”

Report: Jim Boylen to Bulls: I learned from Gregg Popovich. Bulls to Boylen: You’re no Gregg Popovich

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Shortly after the Bulls fired Fred Hoiberg and promoted Jim Boylen to head coach, Boylen said Chicago players weren’t in shape. Boylen has tried to fix that with lengthy and intense practices – including one scheduled for yesterday, the day after a back-to-back. But Bulls players rebelled with a threatened boycott then ultimately compromised on a team meeting in lieu of practice.

The details of that standoff are something.

Vincent Goodwill and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

When Boylen arrived Sunday, the players stood and told Boylen they weren’t practicing, sources said, with the sides meeting to express their issues. Zach LaVine and Justin Holiday were the most vocal, sources said.

Boylen repeatedly referenced his days on the San Antonio Spurs staff and instances in which coach Gregg Popovich pulled all five players off the floor to send a message, sources said.

A player responded, sources said, telling Boylen in essence that they aren’t the Spurs and, more importantly, he isn’t Popovich.

The wildest part of all this: The Bulls already said they plan to keep Boylen as head coach next season. They’re not treating him as an interim.

But Boylen must dig himself out of a hole just to make it through the rest of this season.

Popovich can be hard on his players, but he has also proven that, if they buy in, he’ll help them perform at a high level. Boylen hasn’t. Absent demonstrated Xs-and-Os and developmental acumen, he just comes across as overbearing. NBA players don’t want to be treated like children.

The Bulls even complained to the players’ union, according to Goodwill and Haynes.

In the reported exchange, Boylen sounded like David Fizdale with Marc Gasol. The former Grizzlies coach and current Knicks coach had to learn from that.

Boylen could grow from this, too. But he put himself behind the eight ball with his harsh start.

Rumor: LeBron James suggested Cavaliers trade Kyrie Irving to Trail Blazers for Damian Lillard

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When Kyrie Irving requested a trade from the Cavaliers last year, LeBron James told the Cavs not to trade the disgruntled star. But LeBron also made no effort to win over Irving.

If that weren’t unhelpful enough…

Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report:

League sources say that when James became convinced Irving couldn’t be persuaded to stay in Cleveland, he suggested to the Cavs front office that it deal Irving to the Blazers for All-Star point guard Damian Lillard. The Cavs never called the Blazers

Of course LeBron wanted Lillard. Lillard is very good, even better than Irving.

But that deal probably wouldn’t appeal to the Trail Blazers. Though Irving is younger and cheaper, Lillard is locked up two additional seasons. That greater team control is huge.

Perhaps, the Cavs could have bridged the gap in Irving’s and Lillard’s values by sending draft picks to and/or taking bad contracts from Portland. LeBron left Cleveland for the Lakers after last season, anyway. Long-term issues like lost picks and toxic contracts weren’t necessarily his problem. It’s more understandable the Cavaliers resisted.*

*However, a team with an all-time great like LeBron in his prime should have been more committed to winning a title last season than they were. Those opportunities come along only so often.

What makes this particularly interesting: The Lakers are trying to get another star. Does LeBron still want to play with Lillard? The Trail Blazers insist they’re keeping Lillard, and he has repeatedly said he wants to stay in Portland. But LeBron wanting Lillard in Los Angeles could be the seed that grows into something bigger.