In flood time you can see how some trees bend,
And because they bend, even their twigs are safe,
While stubborn trees are torn up, roots and all.
Antigone is one of my favorite Greek tragedies. It features incest, power struggles, war, betrayal, toxic family issues, and more. This plea of warning comes from a desperate son to his stubborn king (and father), who predictably ignores logic, continues his toxic and myopic decision making, and everything collapses in tragic shambles.
Landing this thing in Dallas now; the GREAT news is you may be guessing this allusion is a shot at Mark Cuban. And truthfully it works eerily well for him, but it also highlights some of the biggest concerns Mavs faithful should have about our new head coach, Jason Kidd.
However, the dust has settled on a tumultuous start to the Dallas Mavericks’ summer. Now that the rancor and noise has died down from the massive organizational shake-up, a clinical view needs to be applied for trying to diagnose what comes next. There are many legitimate warning flags and massive question marks that have been thoroughly covered regarding Kidd’s on-court and off-court concerns. But let’s dive in deeper and try to find reasons for hope and optimism for our little Mavericks new coach.
Reason #1: He’s not Rick Carlisle
Look, I am pro-Rick. We are forever indebted to him for 2011, and he managed to Macgyver us to years of moderate success and overachieve with mediocre talent. However, it’s clear that a new voice was needed on the bench, and his hard-nosed ways were beginning to fray his and Luka’s relationship. Giannis Antetokounmpo was upset when Kidd left “He’s going to end up—whatever, if he got fired or not—he’s going to end up in the Hall of Fame. Having Jason Kidd as our coach was big.” And LeBron James appeared (we often don’t believe what’s coming out of his mouth) upset to lose Kidd from the Lakers.
We know that all that matters is Luka and his state of mind towards the franchise, and with strong endorsements from two other megastars, maybe one of Kidd’s greatest assets is his ability to manage and massage the egos of his stars.
Reason #2: The road to coaching redemption is a crowded one
Frank Vogel: Six successful seasons in Indiana, two terrible ones in Orlando, then a title in LA on his third coaching stint.
Nate McMillan: SIXTEEN seasons with three different franchises before taking over Atlanta midseason and taking them to the cusp of the NBA Finals.
Monty Williams: Five modest seasons in New Orleans, filled with strife and player conflict, one playoff-less season in Phoenix, and now he’s guided the Suns to the Finals.
Of course circumstances and superstars helped lead to many of these coaching turnarounds, but we have a top 3 player and were a game away from a wide open second round in the West, and if Kidd is willing to make some concessions and has been humbled by his past failures, perhaps he’s the next coach on this list.
Reason #3: Look at the big brain on Jason
LeBron also claimed Kidd was “the only person alive who sees the game of basketball with his level of clarity.’’ And as Luka carries his home country to the Olympics and continues to revel in the joys of international (re: team) basketball, I can see a certain synergy developing between Kidd and Luka, who are hard-wired, generous generals of an offense.
Carlisle was an incredible at conjuring magic out of creative lineups and exploiting matchups, but his history of clashing with his point guards is concerning and likely a headache we won’t experience with Kidd. Luka doesn’t want to dominate the ball as much as he currently does with Dallas, and maybe that’s more of a product of our roster, but perhaps Kidd and Luka can coalesce to create a less heliocentric offense.
Reason #4: Kidd gloves
It is the definition of a pipe dream to think about Damian Lillard forcing his way to Dallas, but the fact that he (previously) banged the table directly for Kidd to be his coach, is a great sign for things to come for the Mavericks. Let’s be honest, Rick was a prick for most of his tenure, and lots of players had a hard time playing for him. He was so hard on young players and earning his trust was next to impossible (remember when he chained Jalen Brunson to the bench in favor of Trey Burke in game 7? Remember our first round pick Josh Green, who may actually suck, but Rick never even gave him a chance to work through anything?)
But I digress; Mark Cuban’s vision with his new basketball brain trust is clearly prioritizing doing things differently than they have in the past. A past full of failed free agent pursuits and no acquisitions of star-caliber players outside of the draft, in well over a decade. Having a well-connected “GM” like Nico Harrison is critical to getting a foot in the door with stars, but those stars need to want to play here as well. Having Kidd at the helm is a breath of fresh air and boon for the Mavs in that regard.
Antigone ends with the titular character/hero killing herself because of her father’s cruel and stubborn ways (her mom and brother reach the same fate soon after her death). It’s a powerful and harrowing tale of being blinded by one’s own pride and ignoring logic and reason. The stakes aren’t quite as high here for our little Mavericks, and all that matters is Luka and us winning SOMETHING soon, but let’s hope that our brash owner and new coach are willing to change their ways so we avoid the same fate with our hero.