Milwaukee Bucks: Imagining a documentary on the Jason Kidd years

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 10: (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 10: (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /
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Milwaukee Bucks
CLEVELAND, OH – OCTOBER 14: (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Imagining a Kidd era Milwaukee Bucks documentary: Where they were in their run

When Jason Kidd took over as Bucks head coach, it had been a long time since the Bucks had enjoyed any kind of sustained or even modest success. When Kidd was later fired by the Bucks, that same sentiment still applied.

In other words, describing the situation the Bucks found themselves in during this period as any kind of run would be exceedingly generous, and more than a little inaccurate.

As I examined a couple of weeks ago in spotlighting the Bucks teams of the early 2010s as a potential documentary subject, Milwaukee had long resisted the notion of a full-on rebuild. They weren’t really good enough to have anything to hold on to but, under Herb Kohl, there was a fear of the potential financial cost and damage to perception that could come with truly bottoming out.

In spite of that, and quite by accident, the Bucks eventually slipped to their nadir in 2013-14. The interesting thing about that 15-win campaign is just how truly hopeful it ultimately was, though.

No longer were the Bucks purely a landing spot for mid-career, mediocre veteran players who hated being in Milwaukee with every fiber of their being. Instead, they played host to a group of younger players who were eager to develop, leave their mark on the game, and firstly prove they deserved to stay in the NBA long-term.

Therefore, there was ample opportunity for players such as Antetokounmpo, Middleton, Brandon Knight, and John Henson — all of whom were 23 or younger and very much on an upward trajectory.

The early results were atrocious, leading to Larry Drew being fired after just one season in spite of his solid track record across multiple seasons with the Hawks. But that only further added to an intriguing core of young players, with the Bucks holding the second overall pick in the 2014 Draft.

With a foundational superstar perhaps set to enter the fold, and a group of New York-based hedge fund billionaires at the helm, it was time for the tired, stale brand and franchise that was the Milwaukee Bucks to become something different. A rebrand would come later, but the first bit of pizzazz would come in the form of a star coach who could attract attention, and then look to mold and shape this young, impressionable group in his own image.

Enter, Jason Kidd.

The key to understanding Kidd’s Bucks comes in accounting for his stardom. A 10-time All-Star as a player, Kidd had been one of the faces of the NBA for two decades when he arrived in Milwaukee. His coaching career may have just been getting started, but it had begun in the most high profile fashion imaginable.

Going back to the Nets, where he was so popular and successful as a player, Kidd’s first experience as a coach was at the front of a flawed but starry experiment in Brooklyn. Coaching the likes of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Joe Johnson, and Deron Williams in their late career phase, Kidd helped Brooklyn to 44 wins and a trip to the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

For most, that would have been a great start, but Kidd wanted more. Kidd always wanted more.

A failed power play to assume dual responsibilities over coaching and basketball operations led to an abrupt breakdown in the relationship between Kidd and the franchise whose fans likely held him in greatest esteem. Kidd would have been out of a job, if not for the fact that the Bucks, undeterred by either his Machiavellian scheming or the fact they still had a coach technically in place, opted to send draft compensation to the Nets in order to land a high profile name to launch their new era.

That meant these were now Kidd’s Bucks.

Kidd, an all-time great player with exacting demands, was not necessarily the right kind of coach to create a nurturing environment for Milwaukee’s young Bucks. But they were the perfect team for him at that point.

Even when Jabari Parker was taken with the second overall pick that summer, there was no rival for Kidd’s stardom on the roster. There was no voice that could instantly be deemed louder or more important than his. In the first season, when that remained the case, Kidd looked like a genius and basked in swathes of praise.

When the dynamics started to shift, and the spotlight reasonably started to wander to those on the court rather than on the sidelines, that was more than this particular marriage could ever have hoped to survive.