Being happy when a coach loses a job is not a great thing. After all, it not only impacts the coach themselves but also family members and the many assistant coaches working under them. And yet, one thing was clear on Monday night: It was time for Jason Kidd’s tenure in Milwaukee to be over.
Before we get into the why, it’s only fair to Kidd to appreciate the one thing he did well in his time with the Bucks. Despite all conventional thought, Kidd bucked norms and allowed Giannis Antetokounmpo to play the point power forward role that has catapulted him to superstardom. It might seem crazy to believe Antetokounmpo would be anything but a star, but that was never a guarantee without the opportunity to learn and make mistakes. If it weren’t for Kidd, Antetokounmpo could have easily turned out to be a sub-NBA level player. And considering how franchise-changing that has become for the Bucks, Kidd’s fingerprints will remain on the franchise for a long time.
That said, the Bucks decided the bad Kidd had done started to outweigh the good in many other areas. It is hard to disagree when looking at the problems, starting with the defensive end of the floor.
The Bucks have at least four or five above-average defenders in Antetokounmpo (who has a DPOY ceiling), Eric Bledsoe, Tony Snell and, at times, Khris Middleton. Add in at least average defenders in John Henson, Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova, and Milwaukee should have at least an average defense. That hasn’t been the case. Milwaukee currently ranks 25th in defensive efficiency per ESPN. That follows a ranking of 17th last season.
Much of the problem seems to stem from Kidd’s ultra-aggressive scheme that consistently gave up either corner 3-pointers or shots at the rim — if not both. Kidd never adjusted as the NBA evolved, which is inexcusable with a team that should be competing for a top-five seed in the Eastern Conference behind Antetokounmpo.
There were other issues as well. Kidd’s rotation choices were inconsistent and often confusing, and it left the Bucks with some lineups that stood no chance in important moments in the game. The players he fell in love with were always questionable as well. This year alone DeAndre Liggins played 15.5 minutes per game in 31 games of mostly loud but ineffective defense and horrendous offense. Last season it included Spencer Hawes and Miles Plumlee at various moments. At one point there was even a Johnny O’Bryant stint.
While the Bucks roster was never perfect, there almost always seemed to be better options on the bench, normally a rookie that needed time to develop like Sterling Brown or Thon Maker. They may not have been able to make an immediate impact, but Kidd’s willingness to trust veteran castoffs with limited and defined ceilings instead of youngsters with higher ones never felt right as they searched for complements to their young stars.
Yet neither was the thing that made moving on from Kidd an easy decision. That came from Kidd’s own words over the last few weeks, as he did every and anything possible to shift blame for the Bucks struggles from himself and onto his players. Despite entering the season with self-described expectations of the playoffs, Kidd in late December complained about expectations being too hard on his young team.
Somehow that wasn’t even the worst part. Just a few days ago Kidd realized during his answer he wasn’t giving enough blame to his players by using the 25-year-olds as an excuse, so mid-answer he upped the age group he was talking about that needed to “learn” how to play.
There is nothing about that answer that is anything other than passing the blame. Milwaukee’s roster is far from perfect. They don’t have a center with the size to bang with the league’s behemoths. They could use some more creation at times. Matthew Dellevadova still plays. It isn’t perfect. But coaches are supposed to help make things that aren’t perfect work and to teach players how to do the things that “come with age.”
Kidd didn’t seem to want to do that. He wanted to do thing his way and then blame it on someone else when it didn’t work. Even after being fired, Kidd did all he could to make himself look as good as possible by leaking the news Antetokounmpo tried to save his job. While it did nothing but make people question the Bucks for not going with what their superstar wanted, there seems to be nothing good for Kidd out of the leak. But Kidd wasn’t going out without an attempt to pass the buck. And so he tried again.
Finally, after what felt like weeks too long, the Bucks decided it was time to lay the responsibility on the man most responsible for the issues. There are important decisions still to be made and the Bucks can still mess things up. At the very least, though, they took a step in the right direction on Monday.