The NBA is so big and relevant these days that it enjoys a 24/7 news cycle. Still, there are times when the league drowns in so many headlines that keeping track of everything that’s going on becomes a head-spinning exercise. This week was one of those times. From the Cleveland’s locker room drama to the All-Star snubs to player-owner discord, the league had no shortage of drama in these past few days. None of them were as big, though, as the firing of Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd.
To be clear, Kidd’s days in Milwaukee were numbered anyway. Giannis Antetokounmpo was enjoying a career year, and yet, the Bucks have been rather mediocre throughout the season. Its 24-22 record is still good enough for the eight seed in the East, but there were great expectations this season. Someone had to take the brunt of the blame for the Bucks’ uneven play, and all the fingers were pointed squarely in Kidd’s direction.
It didn’t help that #FireKidd started trending all over the internet. Fans are a lot smarter about the game now than they were 10 years ago. We see when things aren’t what they’re supposed to be. Kidd was often accused of being too nonchalant with his rotations and playbook. He’d mix-and-match his starting lineups even when the team was winning. And those are just things we see on the sidelines. It’s been reported that Kidd wore out his welcome with the front office because of politicking. It’s a trend that has followed his coaching career.
His exit in Brooklyn was mired in similar circumstances. There were reports that he lost a power struggle with management and instead of waiting for his head to be served to him, he abruptly looked for greener pastures, finding one in Milwaukee only because he was close to the team’s then new owner, March Lasry. but like most honeymoon periods, the relationship between Kidd and the Bucks reportedly became untenable. Someone had to go. It was Jason Kidd. His firing officially ended a tumultuous three-and-a-half seasons for the Bucks. Kidd compiled a 139-152 record, two playoff appearances, and a final season that was seemingly spinning out of control.
Now that Kidd’s out of the picture, interim coach Joe Prunty takes over head-coaching duties for the duration of the season. It’s not too late for Prunty to steer this ship in the right direction. The Bucks are still in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. It still has the Greek Freak. It has a collection of dynamic players led by Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton, and reigning rookie of the year, Malcolm Brogdon. Former second overall pick Jabari Parker is on track to make a return next month from an ACL injury. Relative to most teams, the Bucks are loaded with talent so there’s no reason why it can’t make a run in the second half of the season.
The bigger question, though, is what happens after this season. Prunty isn’t a long-term solution as the team’s head coach. First-year GM Jon Horst refused to endorse Prunty as the future head coach of the team. People within the league are already speculating who the Buck’s new coach is going to be next season. Former New Orleans Pelicans head coach Monty Williams is reportedly the front-runner, but you can expect the Bucks to do their due diligence this time around.
The team didn’t do that when it hired Kidd, and while he did play a big part in developing Antetokounmpo into the player he’s become, his influence on the team was always regarded as a net-negative. One step forward, two steps back.
The Bucks are in a precarious position: Antetokounmpo, Bledsoe, and Middleton all vouched for Kidd. They had their coach’s back, right up to the end. The Bucks now need to show these guys that the decision to fire Kidd would have long-term benefits for them and the team as a whole. No more is that important than with Antetokounmpo, the 22-year-old all-everything franchise stud who’s already regarded as one of the best players in the league. He needs to be convinced that the franchise is moving in the right direction, and that the firing of the guy he vouched for was done for a reason.
The clock’s ticking, Milwaukee.