When the Dallas Mavericks hired Jason Kidd to take Rick Carlisle’s spot as head coach last summer, many were skeptical of the move. After all, Kidd was mostly unsuccessful in his previous two head coaching stops, so what was going to make the third time the charm?
As it turns out, Kidd grew a lot, both as a person and a coach, during his two years as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Lakers from 2019-21.
"The thing people don’t really put a lot of emphasis on is the job he did with the Lakers. The Lakers don’t win the  championship without what he did. The way he’s able to communicate with superstars, the way he’s able to support the team,” GM Nico Harrison told DallasBasketball.com earlier this year.
Obviously, Kidd still had to come out and prove that his success as an assistant coach could translate to a head-coaching role, and he did just that. The Mavs finished 52-30 last season, captured home-court advantage in the playoffs for the first time since 2011, and reached the Western Conference Finals before ultimately falling to the much more experienced Golden State Warriors.
Although the play of Luka Doncic, Jalen Brunson and the rest of the players had the biggest impact, Kidd’s commitment to defense completely changed the Mavs’ identity from previous years. Dallas went from a bottom-10 defense in 2020-21 to a respected fringe top-5 defense in 2021-22.
By all accounts, every player on the Mavs loves Kidd and the way he coaches, and that can go a long way toward sustained success for the future, especially with Doncic on the roster.
It’s a lot easier to outperform low expectations than to live up to high expectations, so Kidd’s second season will likely be a little more difficult than his first — especially when considering the Mavs lost Jalen Brunson to the New York Knicks and will be incorporating newly-acquired big man Christian Wood into the mix.
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Just because Year 2 will be more difficult doesn’t mean it won’t be successful, though. We expect the Mavs to do just fine in the regular season next year with “Luka Ball” gearing up to be at an all-time high.
Dallas just has to hope it can make another addition or two along the way to help Doncic preserve some energy for the postseason.
“(Luka) is going to get better” said Kidd after the season ended. “By being in this situation more will only help him. This is his fourth year in the league and he’s gone to the (Western) Conference Finals. That’s pretty good.
“I’ll go visit him at some point (in the offseason). I’ll go see him on his turf. Then we’ll sit down, and I’ll talk about a game plan and he’ll tell me if it’s good or not, and if it’s good, then we’ll roll. If not, then I’ve got to go back to the drawing board.”
You can follow Dalton Trigg on Twitter at @dalton_trigg
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