Home Sports Jason Kidd passes on vindication as he leads Mavs to NBA Finals

Jason Kidd passes on vindication as he leads Mavs to NBA Finals

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Jason Kidd Dallas Mavericks NBA Finals

Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd pauses on the sideline during the second half of Game 5 of the Western Conference finals in the NBA basketball playoffs against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Thursday, May 30, 2024, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

DALLAS — Jason Kidd isn’t big on personal vindication.

Leading the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA Finals as their coach 13 years after he was the point guard on the franchise’s only championship team means more to Kidd than proving he was right about Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving needing time to grow into a title-seeking tandem.

There’s part of the 51-year-old, a Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame player, who believes he doesn’t have much to prove at all.

“I know how to win,” Kidd said. “Done that since elementary school, to the highest level. I’ve won gold medals. I’ve won championships. And I’ve won a championship as a coach, assistant coach. Now I get the opportunity to do it as a head coach.”

When the Mavericks tip off at the Boston Celtics in Game 1 on Thursday night, they’ll be three months removed from a 1-6 slide that once again had pundits questioning how much longer Kidd would be the coach in Dallas.

READ: NBA: Kyrie Irving was right: Mavericks are just getting started

The Mavericks will be almost 14 months removed from Kidd dealing with questions about his job security and the club’s curious decision to quit with two games left, still with a chance to make the postseason.

The Doncic-Irving pairing had faltered in the two months after the blockbuster trade that brought Irving from Brooklyn in 2023. Never mind that just a year earlier, Kidd’s coaching debut in Dallas ended with Doncic’s first trip to the Western Conference finals.

“You have to go through some failures I suppose to really believe it’s going to work,” said Kidd, whose title as an assistant came with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2020 playoff bubble. “We weren’t very good. But it’s OK. As much as people feel like they should be traded or fired because of failures, it’s sometimes sad. We had to go through it.”

Now, Kidd will try to become the eighth person to win a title as a player and coach for the same franchise. Seven more have done both with different franchises.

Kidd did it by giving the mix of perennial All-Stars Irving and Doncic time to marinate, and persuading the offensive wizards to play defense.

READ: Doncic-Irving in prime form as Mavericks play in NBA Finals

“He understands me and Kyrie’s role because he’s been in that role,” Doncic said of the two-time Olympic gold medal winner. “So he helps us a lot. But everybody. He kept everybody together. We were down a lot, especially during the season. It was ups and downs all the time, but he kept us together.”

Kidd and his staff pivoted with the midseason trades for P.J. Washington, a 3-and-D wing, and Daniel Gafford, a pick-and-rolling rim protector to add depth at center with rookie Dereck Lively II.

A team that started the season with Kidd’s mantra of “our offense is our defense” morphed into a defense-first group similar to his first season in 2021-22.

Here’s the bottom line.

In the 10 seasons from the 2011 championship to Kidd’s arrival as coach, the Mavericks didn’t win a playoff series. They’ve won five in his three seasons, losing to Golden State in the West finals two years ago.

READ: NBA: Mavericks extend coach Jason Kidd’s contract

“It doesn’t happen a lot you go from the lottery to the finals,” Kidd said, referring to the draft pick the Mavs preserved — and turned into Lively — by tanking at the end of 2022-23. “But we truly believed that we had the pieces. Sometimes you take a step back to view what you have.”

Even after the Mavs felt they had found the right mix, the 1-6 slide came after a seven-game winning streak. They were six games over .500 and flirting with the play-in tournament, which would have put Dallas at risk of missing consecutive playoffs after such a promising start under Kidd.

A 16-2 stretch followed, vaulting the Mavericks to fifth in the West. Now they’ve won three series without home-court advantage and will try to do it again. Houston, at No. 6 in 1995, is the only lower seed to win a championship.

“I think at one of the points in the season, everyone thought the world was coming to an end,” Kidd said. “But we kept coming to work. We were positive and things kind of turned around for the better. I think that’s just who we are. It’s just about trust, about working and having fun at the same time.”

The Mavericks are a reflection of their coach, stoic in the face of the criticism and questions a year ago, with maybe a little vitriol sprinkled in when there’s a feeling of, “That’s enough.”

Kidd has long preached it’s OK to fail, which left an impression on Lively as the 20-year-old quickly blossomed into an impact player the club wasn’t necessarily expecting this soon.

“He’s putting me in positions where he’s expecting me to fail, and even if I fail, he’s going to leave me in there to learn,” Lively said. “He’s walking into the locker room and then asking, what do we think? Being able to have a coach like that who’s going to make the players speak, make the players talk to one another and then say what he thinks, is an amazing process.”

Kidd dropped an expletive on a reporter last year when asked about the vote of confidence he got from then-owner Mark Cuban as the season fizzled at the finish, essentially saying those questions weren’t being asked during the 2022 West finals run.

A 10-time All-Star who is second in career assists behind John Stockton, Kidd looks back on that chaos with a shrug.

“You guys ask all the tough questions. These are tough questions,” Kidd said. “You guys are doing your job. As the head coach of the Mavericks, I’m doing my job. They were tough questions last year, tough questions that will come from this series. I will give you the answer. Some may like it. Some may not.”



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Either way, Kidd has a contract extension. He got that just after the first of his three series victories this spring.





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