Thursday April 24th, 2008

NEW ORLEANS -- If you have followed the NBA since the turn of the century, you have probably heard about Byron Scott's problems with Jason Kidd.

When Scott was the Nets' coach and Kidd was his franchise point guard, two strong personalities butted heads. The rift began during the 2002-2003 season, when Kidd -- along with several teammates -- started to question Scott's coaching acumen. The trigger points: the Nets' 1-7 skid just after the All-Star break (which reportedly prompted New Jersey to consider replacing Scott with assistant coach Eddie Jordan) and Scott's puzzling defensive strategy against Tim Duncan in a Game 1 loss to the Spurs in the 2003 NBA Finals.

The relationship reached its boiling point the following January, when, just seven months removed from their second straight trip to the Finals, the Nets unceremoniously fired Scott and replaced him with Lawrence Frank. At the time, Kidd and Scott denied that Kidd had ordered the move, but it was clear to most observers that the acrimonious relationship between coach and star player was at the heart of the dismissal.

Four years later, as Scott's Hornets' and Kidd's Mavericks face off in a first-round series, their relationship is still frosty. Scott and Kidd didn't give each other so much as a passing look before, during or after the Hornets' victories in Games 1 and 2. That wouldn't be worth mentioning if it were another player and coach, but considering the success the two shared in New Jersey, the lack of acknowledgment was conspicuous.

"I don't know if you ever quite let it go, but in your heart of hearts, our heavenly Father says you must forgive," Scott told Yahoo! Sports in reference to Kidd's role in the coach's ouster in New Jersey. "But human nature is to hold onto things when you were done wrong, to have some negative feeling about the person, or persons, that have done those things to you."

Today, Scott has a new franchise and a new franchise point guard in 22-year-old Chris Paul. But while the Kidd-Scott dynamic was volatile almost from the start, Scott and Paul have enjoyed a strong working relationship.

"Without Coach, I'm not the player I am today," said Paul, who is in his third season playing for Scott. "We have a great relationship both on and off the court. I really look up to him. We talk about everything. He always lets me know what I can do better and he has watched me grow day in and day out."

What's behind the strength in Scott's and Paul's relationship? Communication. Lots of communication, really. After the Hornets struggled to 39 victories in an injury-riddled 2006-2007 season (during which Paul himself was limited to 64 games), Scott made a point to check in with Paul regularly in the offseason. And he liked what he heard.

"I would talk to him once every week and a half or two weeks," Scott said. "He would tell me that he just finished working out with Gilbert Arenas or some other guy. He would tell me, 'Coach I'm going to be ready. We're going to make the playoffs. This is going to be a great year.' He was very positive all summer. I knew he was driven."

Paul's began to display the type of leadership Scott has craved when he called up some of his teammates and got them all together for summer workouts.

"I missed a lot of games," Paul said. "Peja [Stojakovic] missed almost all of last season. Tyson [Chandler] was injured, David West [too]. We had just acquired Mo Pete [Morris Peterson]. I wanted to make sure we all had the same mind-set starting the season."

Said Scott: "That's being a leader. Right there."

While Paul is fully aware of the history between Scott and Kidd, he isn't about to let that happen in New Orleans.

"He never talks [about Kidd]," Paul said. "That was before me. I love Coach to death. There are times where we might get upset with each other -- probably when I get techs [technical fouls] -- but at the end of the day we both know each other's competitive spirit. He knows I want to win for him and vice versa."

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