It was an audacious move as Kidd skipped town, leading to plenty of salacious headlines in the New York tabloids. But it also was a reminder of something else: Every stop of Kidd’s remarkable basketball journey over the past 25 years — from the University of California to the four teams he played for during his Hall of Fame career — ended with one burned bridge after another in his wake.
It should come as no surprise that his ending in Milwaukee followed the same script.
That said, Kidd’s dismissal did come with one surprise — the timing. Most people around the league suspected he would get until the end of the season before such a decision would happen. Now, it seems his assistant, Joe Prunty, will likely helm the ship until season’s end, when the Bucks will then conduct a full search for Kidd’s replacement.
Regardless of the timing of the move, the tensions between Kidd and the franchise had been building for months.
There were issues between Kidd and Jabari Parker, who is expected to return from his second torn anterior cruciate ligament in early February and whom the Bucks hope will be able to become the second star alongside MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo. There were issues with Kidd and upper management, with Kidd constantly pushing for moves to change the roster and harping on its lack of experience.
None of that factors in some of the weird in-game decisions Kidd has made recently, like his decision to foul while up four in the final seconds of one game, and then to intentionally miss a free throw while up three in the final seconds of another. The Bucks still won both games, but it made for odd scenes as Kidd tried to explain his rationale both times.
In short, the Bucks decided they needed a change in the environment around the team. As one source put it, “The culture wasn’t right.”
Now the Bucks will get to reset that culture as they see fit. And, in doing so, they’ll enter the summer with what almost assuredly will be the NBA’s most attractive job opening, short of Steve Kerr deciding he’s had enough of coaching the Golden State Warriors.
Why would a small market like Milwaukee be seen as the best available job in the league? Because of Antetokounmpo, who is — at worst — one of the five best players in the NBA right now. It is a players’ league for a reason: Talent, not coaching, wins in the end. And there will be a long line of coaches waiting to jump at the chance to run a team with a player as physically gifted as the so-called Greek Freak.
Antetokounmpo has a strong relationship with Kidd, and will undoubtedly have to be sold on the move. But there’s little doubt he’ll be involved in the process of hiring Kidd’s replacement.
So who could that be? Former New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams, now working in San Antonio’s front office, will likely be in the mix. Former Memphis Grizzlies coach David Fizdale could be, as well. Could this be the job that finally tempts Jeff Van Gundy to leave ESPN’s broadcast booth to get back into coaching? Both Lasry and Wes Edens, the other co-owner in Milwaukee, are New Yorkers, and former Knicks coach Van Gundy did previously register interest in the Pelicans job because of the presence of a similar game-changing talent in Anthony Davis.
There will undoubtedly be others, and not just because of Antetokounmpo’s presence on the roster. The Bucks are in the East, which — while better than it has been — still isn’t at the same level as the West, if for no other reason than it doesn’t include the Warriors. And while LeBron James still hasn’t been dethroned as King of the East quite yet — though, given how Cleveland is playing recently, that time could be near — the lingering rumors of him eventually going to Los Angeles could leave the East wide open for someone else to claim it. None of the teams looking to do so will have a better player than Antetokounmpo.
Couple that with Milwaukee preparing to move into a new arena this fall — to go along with the new practice facility the Bucks are already using right across the street — and this job looks all the more desirable.
That — along with his familiarity with ownership — is why Kidd was willing to leave Brooklyn to come to Milwaukee in the first place.
It’s also why the Bucks ultimately decided Monday was the right time for him to leave.