ORLANDO – It was only a couple months ago that Jason Kidd and the rest of the New York Knicks were facing Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and their Boston Celtics teammates.
Now, with a blockbuster swap officially completed between the Celtics and Nets, those three will be reunited again in Brooklyn, with Kidd coaching Pierce and Garnett.
When Kidd spoke to Garnett on draft night when the terms of the deal were essentially agreed to, there wasn’t too much said.
“He’s a man of few words, but when he does say something, everyone listens,” Kidd said Friday during Orlando Summer League here.
“My pitch was to have an opportunity to win a championship again, and being able to not just win a championship but teach these guys what it takes to win. (Brook) Lopez, (Andray) Blatche, (Deron Williams), Joe Johnson – being able to show them what it takes to win.”
Garnett, 37, and Kidd, 40, are said to be close, in no small part because they came into the league around the same time — Garnett for the 1995-96 season and Kidd a season before.
“He’s a warrior,” Kidd said of Garnett. “From Day 1 (in) ’95, He’s been all business. He’s a winner, he understands what it takes to win. When you talk about a true professional, he’s the blueprint.”
An obvious factor for Garnett to waive his no-trade clause to make the deal work was that he’d be joining his close friend Pierce, who will be 36 by the time next season begins. Also joining Garnett and Pierce in Brooklyn is Jason Terry, 35.
Kidd said he doesn’t believe it will be awkward coaching players he’s played against.
“No. For JET, no, I think because that was kind of my role when I was in Dallas, being able to communicate with those guys on that end of the floor,” Kidd said.
“Paul, when I talked to Paul he was excited for me because he felt this was something that the league needed, to get some new blood in as coaches. I don’t think it’s going to be any awkwardness, I think it’s going to be a great combination of them being able to help me and me being able to help them. That’s what a family’s all about and that’s what we are.”
In all, Kidd said there are plenty of egos to manage, but the fact that most of them are veterans does help.
“I’m glad they’re all in their 30s,” he said. “If they were all in their 20s it might be harder, but these guys all understand what it takes to win, what it means to win, and they’ve all sacrificed. When you talk to them or if they talk to their teammates, that’s going to be a key word that they’ll share, is that you have to sacrifice to be a winner in this league.
“When you talk about Paul and KG, you can’t forget about Jason Terry. He’s also won a championship and he also understands what it takes. I’m excited about the personalities. Everybody’s different and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
How does Kidd see the team coming together on the court?
“They’re all unselfish, so someone has to shoot the ball,” Kidd said. “When you look at teams that have put big names together, they tend to take a step back because of the other superstars, they rely on them. I’m looking for these guys to all be who they are, but also they have to look at the basket. That’s something we’ll talk about as a team.”
At this stage in their careers, Garnett and Pierce won’t and can’t play heavy minutes, though it might be hard to convince them of that.
“I’ll just cut the uniform off. That’s all, that’s easy,” Kidd said, half-joking.
“We’ll sit down, we’ve already started working on that. Being able to say I sat in that seat, being able to talk to KG, Paul and JET about those situations, hopefully they’ll listen and be able to understand the bigger picture. I’ve always called the regular season the dress rehearsal for the real season of trying to win a championship, so I can share that knowledge.
“But KG and Paul sometimes could be stubborn because they’re warriors and they want to be out there and help. Sometimes when they look in that locker their jerseys won’t be there. That’s the best way to keep those guys’ minutes down.”
But this move was no doubt made with the Miami Heat as a target.
“They’re the blueprint,” Kidd said. “They’re the champs. They’ve won it twice, they could have won it three times in a row. When they put that team together to try to win championships, and they’ve had a lot of success. If you want to compete with them you have to have horses, and I think we have that.”