The Portland Trail Blazers exited the postseason without a series win yet again. This time, they fell short in a 2-4 first round loss to the Denver Nuggets, who were without two likely starters in Jamal Murray and Will Barton. In the immediate aftermath, they fired long-time head coach Terry Stotts. Stotts’s downfall was caused by a lack of consistent postseason success despite the presence of star Damian Lillard. Dame’s incredible offensive ability has created expectations that were not met by four first round exits in five years, and while those expectations might not have been realistic given Portland’s roster construction, that’s no longer a debate they’ll be having with Stotts at the helm. Despite the roster questions, moving on after nine years of limited postseason success is far from indefensible.
Kidd’s Name Discussed
Over the last few days, a familiar name had made its way into the early discussions surrounding Stott’s future replacement. Shortly after the loss to the Nuggets, Lillard said “Jason Kidd is the guy I want.” For some, that’s a laughable statement. We’ve been through the Kidd experience. Bucks fans may remember him as the man who halted Giannis Antetokounmpo’s three-point shooting, failed to create any sort of successful defensive strategy, and ultimately left the summer before the Bucks truly achieved lift-off. There’s not a whole there when it comes to past success in a head coach role, and that’s before we get into Kidd’s personal failures with domestic abuse, a DUI, and repeated instances of being a pretty terrible locker room presence as a player.
There’s no question that Kidd was a gifted point guard with an all-time great mind for the game. He’s probably in the top ten all-time when it comes to pure point guards. He has also resurrected his image to some degree by staying in the shadows as a Lakers’ assistant. Lillard’s request didn’t come out of nowhere. More players in different places would likely feel the same way. Yet most rightfully have negative reactions to Kidd, and it has been a shock to see him rise to the front of the head coaching market so quickly. You would think the collective memory of his past failures would last a little longer. While former players of Kidd’s caliber will almost get an extra few lives, that doesn’t seem like something the man deserves. Regardless, Lillard wanted him, bringing him back to the center of the NBA world for a brief moment.
Blazers Will Have to Choose Different Candidate
Unfortunately for Lillard’s desires, Kidd will not be making the move to Portland, having officially removed his name from consideration. In an ironic twist, Lillard’s demand caused Kidd’s wariness. ESPN has reported that the direct and public nature of the request made Kidd feel “uncomfortable”, and he pulled out to avoid “an awkward circumstance.”
I will give Kidd credit for having people that know how to produce a nice little statement. He praised both the Blazers and Stotts in saying ““Portland’s a first-class organization and will have great candidates for its head coaching job, but I’ve decided not to be one of them. Whoever they choose will have big shoes to fill from Terry.” That’s the kind of wording that keeps options open. This likely is not the last time Kidd will be brought up as a potential head coach. We’ll be having this discussion again, maybe even as soon as later on this summer.
For the Blazers, the search will move in a different direction. Another former point guard, Chauncey Billups, appears to be a leading option. He’s currently an assistant with the Clippers. The same could be said of former Buck Sam Cassell, who’s with the Sixers. Neither Billups or Cassell have been a head coach before, but both have been receiving plenty of attention in recent hiring cycles. Some other names to watch include Jeff Van Gundy and former Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, who has been an assistant with the Nets this season. Portland will find another coach, and the cycle of brilliant offense and awful defense will likely continue. We can say with confidence, however, that it won’t happen with Kidd on the sideline.
Hopefully no other team takes a chance that the Blazers won’t. Second chances are good; Jason Kidd is well beyond that.
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