A month ago, Jason Kidd was being ridiculed by anonymous scouts and others within the NBA.
His first 31 games as an NBA coach had not gone well. He was fined for purposely spilling a soda to get a timeout and was forced to remove assistant coach Lawrence Frank from the bench after the two had issues working together.
Ten wins later, Kidd is the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month, which the league announced Monday afternoon.
“I think it’s a great honor for those guys in that locker room because they’re playing at a high level and it’s very nice recognition,” Kidd said. “But it’s for those guys that are playing and those guys are playing very well.”
Kidd won NBA Player of the Month honors three times — in April 1999 with Phoenix and November 2001 and December 2002 with the Nets. He is the fourth person to win both awards joining Larry Bird, Larry Drew and Jeff Hornacek.
“I’m still feeling my way,” Kidd said. “It’s still early in my young coaching career but I’ve seen a lot in the first couple of months. But the biggest thing is being able to communicate with those guys in that locker room and making sure we’re all on the page.”
Kidd is the fourth coach to win it while with the Nets joining Avery Johnson, Frank (four times) and Byron Scott (two times). Johnson is the most noteworthy of those winners in recent Net history as he went 11-4 in November 2012 and was fired a month later after the team dropped 10 of 13 games, which eventually set in motion Kidd’s hiring.
Kidd is one of nine rookie head coaches in the league, including last night’s opposing number, Philadelphia’s Brett Brown, who spent time in San Antonio working as an assistant for Gregg Popovich.
Entering Monday, the nine rookie head coaches are a combined 199-223. The ones who have winning records are Phoenix’s Hornacek (29-18), Memphis’ Dave Joerger (26-20) and Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer (25-21).
“It’s much harder,” Brown said of his first head coaching job. “It’s something I didn’t judge properly.”
Johnson sits with knee tendinitis
Over his last six games, Joe Johnson is shooting 39.2 percent (22-of-56) and besides shots not falling there might be a better explanation involving his health.
The Nets seemed to think so, which is why they gave Johnson the night off with right knee tendinitis.
“It’s been bothering him for some time but Joe isn’t one to complain,” Kidd said. “For that, we thought we’d give him the night off.”
Johnson said the right knee is inflamed, but there is no structural damage.
Before these six games, Johnson had shot 51.4 percent (55-of-107) in a six-game stretch that included wins over Atlanta, Golden State, Miami and New York. He had 32 points against Miami and 23 points on Jan. 6 against Atlanta, prompting Kevin Garnett to dub him “Joe Jesus.”
Johnson has been the most durable Net this season as Monday was just the second game he missed. He also sat out Dec. 20 at Philadelphia, four days after his 37-point game against the 76ers, but the Nets didn’t sound too concerned about any long-term injury issues.
“This is for him to get some rest,” Kidd said. “We’ll re-evaluate him how he feels.”
Brown talks up Noel’s progress
Nerlens Noel has yet to play an NBA game but was seen on the court before the game working on free throws and post-up moves while he recovers from left ACL surgery.
According to Brown, the progress is becoming evident for the 76ers, who traded Jrue Holiday to New Orleans for Noel on draft night.
“He’s doing great,” Brown said after spending time working with Noel on his shot. “He’s really improving. You can see a balance in his shot. Ultimately we’re trying to make him as good a free throw shooter as we can.”
Noel was a 52.9 percent foul shooter in his one season for Kentucky and Brown said part of the improvement is upping that percentage.
Brown also lauded Noel for his commitment to getting better before he takes the court as an NBA player but also pointed out that changing someone’s game can be easier to accomplish in this kind of situation.
“I hope he never has this opportunity again but we’ve taken advantage of it and I’m proud of his commitment to it,” Brown said. “He is buying in and I think we’re starting to see results.”
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.