Milwaukee Bucks: Time To Hold Jason Kidd Accountable


The Milwaukee Bucks are on a bad run with many potential causes, but why is nobody looking in Jason Kidd‘s direction?

The most important thing about going on a poor run like the Milwaukee Bucks currently find themselves on is to learn from it, encourage open discussion and to create an environment of accountability. The latter is what many Bucks fans felt coach Jason Kidd was looking to do with his lineup changes prior to Sunday’s game in Charlotte.

Kidd returned to the bench following a one-game suspension, and a game in which his team got picked apart by the Orlando Magic, and looked to rattle some cages by dropping Michael Carter-Williams and Jabari Parker in place of veteran gunners Jerryd Bayless and O.J. Mayo.

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There are many ways that such a move could be explained away as a positive or as being at worst irrelevant.

Michael Carter-Williams had been playing terribly and Jerryd Bayless is on a red-hot streak, so I mean why not make that change?

Jabari Parker on the other hand has been impressive if not dominant as he continues to work his way back from injury, making his demotion (whether temporary or longer-term) all the more puzzling.

Many reached to explain the combined moves as an effort to get more veterans on the floor, a plan to create better defensive communication and return the team to the glories of last year on that end of the floor, or to simply provide the youngsters with a wake-up call.

Others put it down to as an effort to create greater spacing and add more three-point shooting into the gameplan, something which the fans seem to have an insatiable desire for this season.

There was a big problem with all of this though, and that is that it involved Milwaukee pushing to be something they aren’t, and shouldn’t be.

Last year’s defense is dead and gone. The remnants of it can probably be found somewhere in between Dallas and Washington D.C., the new homes of Zaza Pachulia and Jared Dudley respectively.

Then there’s the three-point shooting. It’s the strategy that every time the Bucks go to it takes the ball further and further away from their most talented young players, the ones who they’ve supposedly invested their futures in.

Nov 29, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard O.J. Mayo (3) shoots the ball during the first half against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucks lost to the Hornets, but the result should never really have held any relevance. None of the recent losses should. The Bucks don’t need a wake-up call, they still need to be taught how to get better.

Milwaukee in their current incarnation were built with the intention of competing for titles in the future, not immediately.

So, even in the midst of a rough patch, what seems more beneficial to taking the next step on the ladder: trusting, teaching and placing faith in your young players, or reverting to veterans and an age old hero-ball strategy that won’t be around when this team has it’s real chance to ascend to the top of the association?

Milwaukee lost behind a performance that saw Bayless and Mayo make nine of their combined 27 field goal attempts.

Milwaukee lost behind a performance where Bayless and Mayo played 43 and 44 minutes respectively, as opposed to Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker’s combined 47 minutes total.

Milwaukee lost on a night when at one stage seven of eight straight Bucks possessions ended up being three-pointers. Not the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs style of free-flowing open looks created by ball movement either. Straight, stagnant, iso threes.

Milwaukee lost on a night when Giannis Antetokounmpo, their unquestioned young star of the season so far only attempted five field goals.

Milwaukee lost, but it was how they decided to lose that truly mattered.

This was a night where Jason Kidd completely forgot the point of his job in the first place.

This season shouldn’t be about winning random games by all means necessary, with two players on expiring contracts at front and center, it’s about nurturing and developing talent.

Let’s jump back to training camp, where Kidd sat down with NBA TV’s David Aldridge and Dennis Scott to talk about his team.The interview, a part of NBA TV’s Real Training Camp series, gave an insight into what the Bucks were shaping up to be going into the year, and now it acts as a way to trace back to identify some obvious flaws.

Kidd opens up the interview by immediately pointing out:

"We’re excited. We’re not just talking about last year, we know this is a new year. We all want to grow and get better, we’re young and we did add some new pieces."

This was the sort of talk we heard a lot of through the summer. It often felt like management of expectations, but really it was a laying out of facts. Kidd set the stage for an adjustment period and a learning curve for his team to get over, and guess what, here it is.

This is where coaching becomes important, this is where players need mentors. So far, all we’ve seen from Kidd publicly is the illusion of a cracking of the whip. The strict disciplinarian image coming to life.

When speaking to Zach Lowe over the summer about the incident that led to Giannis Antetokounmpo being surprisingly dropped for a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Jared Dudley described Kidd as an “assassin”, elaborating:

"Well Jason Kidd is running a tight ship over there, and he wants to teach these young guys certain things.I like J-Kidd’s whole thing, he’s going to nip it in the bud.We were trying to change the culture, and I met with J-Kidd, captains did, and stood behind him."

Sep 28, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd poses with guard Michael Carter-Williams (5) and forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) and forward Jabari Parker (12) during media day at Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

That’s a fine line to balance on with young players. Jabari Parker came out and reacted to the coach’s decision with a big performance off the bench, much like Antetokounmpo did following similar treatment last year, but then again, it wasn’t too dissimilar to how Parker had been playing anyway.

On the other hand though, you’ve got Michael Carter-Williams. MCW was a player Kidd was rumored to have wanted, and a player who many felt Kidd would be perfectly equipped to mentor. Yet with the player’s confidence already near an all-time low, was this a further humiliation he could have done without?

The player’s comments after the game were dignified and responsible, yet slightly barbed at the same time. As reported by Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

"I really don’t have any comment on it. I guess it’s, at the end of the day, what the coach wants.The past couple games my play has been down. If I’m a coach, I wouldn’t start me, either. Whatever minutes I get, I’m going to come in and try to help the team, cheer from the bench and try to cheer my teammates on.I wasn’t surprised. In practice, I wasn’t in the starting five. I thought I would play more minutes. At the end of the day, coach is coach. He’s just trying to do what’s best for the team."

What about Giannis Antetokounmpo’s timid play though? Kidd alluded post-game that the team had an emphasis on reducing the fouls that the Greek Freak has been picking up.

"When you’re one of the top guys in the league in fouling, he has to find a way not to foul. Him and Khris (Middleton) are tops in the league in fouling or getting in foul trouble early. So if you have to sit, it puts him in a non-aggressive mode, so we’ve got to try to figure out how to keep him from fouling."

As a player who’s had previous experience of being dropped by a coach, and then having just witnessed two of your teammates switched out of the starting lineup, it would probably only be natural for a little trepidation to slip into his play. Whatever the cause, this was not the Giannis anybody wants to see.

Nov 29, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd (R) gestures from the sidelines in the first half against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, the goal for every NBA team is to win, but as everybody knows it’s not just as simple as going and doing it immediately. Kidd’s top priority needs to be to allow his core young players to learn, even if that’s from their mistakes, and grow better together as a unit.

This rolls into the team’s search for an identity, and perhaps most importantly of all, Kidd’s ability to adjust as well though.

Our own Jordan Treske summed up beautifully why the team’s obsession with recapturing the sort of defensive intensity that they thrived on last year could ultimately prove futile, and I’ve already spoken about how I feel the team needs to embrace their strengths offensively, particularly their work on the inside.

You know what, I’m not the only person to have felt that way either though. Kidd told Aldridge and Scott back in September:

"When you look at the make-up of our team we’ve got quite a few guys who can post up. One of our biggest strengths is getting the ball in the paint. We might not have shot the three well, but we’ll continue to work on that and hopefully this year that’ll get better, but we still want to get the ball inside."

The best Bucks performance in recent memory (the team’s only win in their last seven games in fact) came on a performance where even against one of the NBA’s best inside players in Andre Drummond, Milwaukee went down low repeatedly to score 58 points in the paint, and used the three ball sparingly yet effectively to go 9-13 from deep and claim a 21-point victory.

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Compare that to Sunday in Charlotte (not even the worst of the recent stretch by any means), and the Bucks scored only 44 points in the paint. You’d have expected them to score more considering that Al-Jefferson was absent for the majority of the game, but you know what, maybe shooting 8-28 from deep took something away from their looks around the hoop.

Just maybe.

It doesn’t take the most hardcore of Bucks fans to know that Kidd’s rotations have been pretty strange throughout his time in Milwaukee, or to know that his in-game adjustments haven’t always been quite up to speed.

It seems like something very simple, but surprisingly often the starters sit for a just little too long, or he doesn’t call a timeout until just a minute or two too late, and the whole dynamic of a game has changed.

His failure to adjust his system accordingly in the early stages of this season, could prove to be evidence of that playing out once again, but in the larger picture.

We could sit here and debate much of the good that Kidd has done in his coaching career for now, but now is not the time for them.

This isn’t a witch hunt. Nor is it a call for Kidd’s head. I’m just asking the question of why he seems untouchable for so many?

Why isn’t he, as coach, brought to task for his own mistakes more often?

Nov 25, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks players hold back head coach Jason Kidd who was ejected from the game during the fourth quarter against the Sacramento Kings at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

If he’s going to hold his players accountable and react with swift lineup changes like he did on Sunday, it’s important that he’s open and carries himself in a way that is similarly open and demanding of the best.

Kidd was derided by so many for the now infamous spilled Coke during his time in the hotseat in Brooklyn, yet last week, when he showed the height of petulance and irresponsibility by slapping the ball out of referee Zach Zarba’s hands, the Bradley Center offered their coach a standing ovation.

Kidd offered up his reasoning for his actions after the game during his post-game press conference:

"I’m trying to protect to my guys, understanding that we were getting fouled and the whistle wasn’t being blown. So what happens in this league is that you have to stand up for yourself, and my job is to protect those young guys."

Everybody will make their own minds up, but I’d argue that Kidd would be better served to protect his young guys if he was standing on the sideline to offer them guidance.

He can blame the poor play of Michael Carter-Williams at point guard, he can pine on about the lack of defensive communication, and he can take the law into his own hands with referees, but at what point do we start to measure Jason Kidd by what he does to try and fix any of these issues?

If you’re upset that your team only really talks when they feel like they’ve been aggrieved by referess, how about you show them something other than blowing up the issue with the officials rather than the root cause on the floor?

Jason Kidd was one of the greatest leaders the league has ever seen as a player, but it’s time he started to show the same as a coach.

One way or another, if things get better or worse from here, whether it be praise or criticism, the people of Milwaukee need to be clear about one thing: we need to talk about Jason.