In his first month as an NBA coach, Jason Kidd was fined $50,000 for purposely spilling a soda to get a timeout, reassigned Lawrence Frank after spending his first few weeks on the job lobbying for his hire and had scouts give him a scathing assessment.
While that was going on, the Nets stumbled to a 5-14 record that made them a notch above the “laughingstock” label Knicks star Carmelo Anthony bestowed upon his team recently.
Now that the Nets are mostly healthy and playing better, things have seemed to reverse and not that they didn’t during the team’s struggles and players have been eager to share their praise and support for Kidd while noticing the differences from the first month.
“He’s basically learned on the fly,” Joe Johnson said after Tuesday’s practice. “So I think as each game goes, he gets better or he tweaks it a little more or he gets more vocal or whatever the case may be, he’s definitely gotten a lot better.”
“He’s always been comfortable,” Deron Williams said. “We were just hurt and we were losing. He’s gonna take a lot of the blame for that, but he’s been great all year. And he’ll continue to be great.”
Kidd had a chance to comment on the support from his players before Wednesday’s game.
“It means a lot when you talk about the respect and things that we’ve gone through earlier in the season,” Kidd said. “But I think we’ve all learned from one another. But I think the biggest thing is our patience. We’ve all been patient and it’s easy to talk about letting go of the rope with the injuries but you got a great group of guys in that locker room who want to win and they’ve shown a lot of patience.
“So it’s great to be supported from the top but also it’s great to be supported by your players.”
Pierce finding rhythm as reserve
Paul Pierce may publicly accept not starting and internally hide his real feelings about being a reserve when he says things like “I’ll figure it out.”
And it seems Pierce will be in that role even longer based on comments made by Kidd. Kidd had no problems praising Pierce’s mentality but also pointed out how the team has fared better with him anchoring the reserves.
“I think it’s about character,” Kidd said. “You talk about a future Hall of Famer being able to make the adjustment of coming off the bench, helping the team and understanding that makes the team stronger. It just shows his character as a person and as a player and he’s about winning.”
Pierce is shooting 10-of-26 in a reserve role, but he is 8-of-16 after misfiring on eight of his first 10 shots coming off the bench. In the four games Pierce has been a bench player, the Nets’ reserves have scored 171 points on 50 percent shooting (53-of-106).
“I think his leadership understanding that when things get a little hectic he can control things,” Kidd said. “So having someone who’s on the floor who you trust that when things aren’t going well, he’ll get guys in the spots and he’s done a great job with that and also just his shot, getting in a rhythm.”
Pierce played in his second game Wednesday since shedding the protective glove that he joked about taking to the movies and dinner.
“I’m just trying to get my rhythm since I’ve been out with the hand [injury],” Pierce said. “That’s why I decided to play without the glove. It’s really been kind of hampering me. So I was just trying to see where I am — see how [well] I can withstand the pain.”
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.