Steve Kerr highlights Jason Kidd’s uniqueness as coach, participant

Steve Kerr isn’t surprised Jason Kidd has the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals In his first season as their coach, after the franchise lost in the first round of the NBA playoffs each of the past two years. He isn’t shocked by any means that Kidd’s Mavs are allowing the fewest points per game (101.9) in the playoffs by Western Conference teams. He saw him showcase his creativity when Kidd was the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks and also with the Brooklyn Nets.

But the main reason the Mavs’ success didn’t catch Kerr off guard is in part the same reason he could see it happening with the Memphis Grizzlies: Continuity.

Despite this being Kidd’s first season as their head coach, the Mavs have been building something for a while now. Their superstar, Luka Doncic, is in his fourth season with the franchise. The same year Dallas traded with the Atlanta Hawks for Doncic during the NBA draft, they took Jalen Brunson with the third pick in the second round. That has turned out to be a massive steal, and Brunson is in line for a major payday.

Dwight Powell is in his eighth season in Dallas, Maxi Kleber is in his fifth and Dorian Finney-Smith is in his sixth. The Mavs made one of the best moves at the trade deadline in all of basketball by acquiring Spencer Dinwiddie, Davis Bertans being part of that same signing package that has given Kidd another floor-spacer and Reggie Bullock was a sneaky-big offseason.

But much of the core already was developing in Dallas. Kidd stepping in for Rick Carlisle reminds Kerr much of his situation taking over the Warriors for Mark Jackson. The Warriors had made the playoffs for two straight seasons under Jackson, and his 51 wins in his final season were the most of his three-year tenure.

The Mavs’ 52 regular-season wins are the most Kidd has ever racked up in a single season as head coach.

“That really matters,” Kerr said of the Mavs’ continuity. “When a new coach comes in and is able to take a group that’s already been together … because I had the same situation here. I inherited a team that had great continuity.

“It’s much easier to implement changes, because the group already knows each other really well.”

Where Kerr and Kidd differ are their playing days.

Kerr wasn’t recruited much in high school out of Palisades Charter in Southern California, and he was a second-round draft pick after a four-year career at Arizona where he averaged 11.2 points, 3.4 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game. Kidd was a Bay Area hoops legend from his days as a youth to his two years at the University of California, Berkeley, where he averaged 14.9 points, 8.4 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 3.5 steals per game. He was the No. 2 pick in the 1994 NBA Draft, was named Rookie of the Year, a 10-time All-Star, six-time All-NBA and won a title with the Mavs in 2011.

Kidd was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a player in 2018. Kerr was a five-time champion as a player, and very well could be enshrined one day as a coach.

“Jason’s really unique because he’s one of the few superstar Hall of Famers who has gone on to become a great coach,” Kerr said. “Most of the former players are sort of guys like me who were role players and grinders. That seems to be the norm, if you look at all the former players who have coached.

“Not a lot of superstar top-25 all-time players like Jason who have gone on and done this for a long time. He’s unique.”

Only eight NBA championship teams have been coached by Hall of Fame players. Bill Russell, Tom Heinsohn and KC Jones each are responsible for two apiece. Lenny Wilkens and Bill Sharman each won one as a head coach.

Wilkens is the last to win one, all the way back in the 1978-79 season when the Seattle SuperSonics were crowned champions.

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For how unique Kidd’s coaching success has been, he was an even more unique player. He was a 6-foot-4 magician with the ball in his hands. A defensive menace and triple-double machine. Early on in his career he wasn’t feared as a shooter, and then built himself into a weapon from long distance, shooting 42.5 percent on 3-pointers at 36 years old in 2009-10, his last All-Star season.

“I didn’t guard him, thankfully,” Kerr said with a laugh. “The biggest thing I remember about Jason was just the overwhelming speed and force that he played with. In transition, even after made baskets, he’d come barrelling down. You didn’t really see how strong he was until you played against him .

“On TV maybe you couldn’t see it as much, but when the game started, you felt his force. And he was obviously a brilliant passer. Just played with this wonderful pace and energy and made the games easier for his teammates. a brilliant player.”

As Kerr aims for his ninth championship — five as a player and four as a head coach — Kidd is eight wins away from bucking the trend of all-time great players, and earning some new hardware after winning one over his 19-year playing career.

Both coaches are unique in their own ways, and Kerr can only hope his Warriors give Kidd a rude welcome home in the playoffs after the Warriors fell to the Mavs three out of four times in the regular season. The playoffs are whole new ballgame, a fact they’re both more than familiar with.

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