By Anthony L. Cuaycong
Jason Kidd didn’t even bother hiding his sentiments. Touted as a leading candidate to take the reins in California, his alma mater, he found his name attached to the Lakers in the midst of speculation regarding incumbent head coach Luke Walton’s supposedly imminent firing. And he was delighted. Asked about the possibility on ESPN’s The Jump, he pointed to the Lakers as the best franchise “not just in the [National Basketball Association], but the world,” and to resident All-Star LeBron James as “the best player in the world … You are always going to say yes.”
True, Kidd did note that Walton was doing a yeoman’s job steering the Lakers through a rash of injuries and upheaval. And, true, he said he would be weighing his options. “Cal is a great institution. We’ll see what happens.” That said, he proved only too willing to talk about replacing the three-year mentor, never mind that there was no vacancy to speak of yet. “If you ever have the opportunity to wear the purple and gold, you can’t turn that down — as a coach, as a player, because they’re all about championships.”
For all the talk about Kidd’s choices, it bears considering that the 10-time All-Star has had a contentious past in the hot seat. He waged a battle for control with erstwhile assistant Lawrence Frank in his inaugural season at the helm. Then, after steering the Nets to the second round of the playoffs, he moved to the Bucks in a manner that required the latter to give up two second-round picks. He made the postseason in two of the next three years, but could not quite maximize his roster’s potential despite the presence of Giannis Antetokounmpo. Even his subsequent ouster was clouded in controversy.
From the outside looking in, Kidd’s preferences were both good and bad for the Bucks. His plodding predilections and trap-always system seemed iffy at best given the way offenses have placed a premium on pace and space. On the flipside, he was known as a player’s coach, and he commanded loyalty from his charges — traits that may well serve him in good stead navigating the Lakers’ future with James by his side. Of course, it’s on the assumption that Walton’s as good as gone.
In any case, Kidd has already laid the groundwork for a transition. “It’s nice to be wanted. And it just tells me I’m doing the right thing.” And he has seen fit to hedge as well. James, he argued, “wants to win now, but I think, again, it takes time.” Clearly, his return to the coaching ranks is a matter of when and not if, and where and not how. If he does wind up with the Lakers, he will at least have the drama part down pat.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.