by Alex Sims, June 14, 2013
Deron Williams has long anticipated the opportunity to join forces with Jason Kidd, a man he considers an idol, mentor and close friend.
Now, just one year after the two flirted with the idea of playing together before settling in different New York boroughs, D-Will will get the chance to learn from Kidd first hand.
On Thursday afternoon, barely a week after the 19-year veteran announced his retirement from the game as a player, the Nets named Kidd the 18th head coach in franchise history and the "first" for the Brooklyn Nets. D-Will was on hand for the official introduction of Kidd as Nets coach and beamed about the opportunity to learn under one of basketball's best minds.
"He's arguably the best player to ever play in a Nets uniform," Deron said of Kidd, "and to now have him as your coach and a face of the franchise, we're excited and the fans should be excited too. He is one of the smartest players to ever play this game and I think he will make a great coach."
For weeks, the Nets coaching search had featured some big names and deserving candidates, but not much action. That changed when Kidd retired from playing after one season with the crosstown Knicks and set his sights on the Brooklyn coaching job.
D-Will was enjoying his offseason downtime, vacationing with his family when he first received word of Kidd's candiacy. Though he was taken by surprise at first, conversations with Kidd and general manager Billy King helped him to see the vision.
"It definitely caught me off guard when I first heard," Deron said. "I was on vacation with my family in Anguilla. But once I talked to Billy and talked to Jason, I thought it was a great move for us."
But perhaps more than anything, the chance to learn under Kidd is a great opportunity for Deron. As a young man growing up playing basketball in the Dallas area, D-Will idolized Kidd. In 2008, the two formed a friendship as members of the U.S. Olympic basketball team and have grown close ever since.
Though such a coach-player relationship is uncommon, Deron doesn't think that their friendship will be a detriment to his ability to play under Kidd, in fact, D-Will believes his long-standing respect for Kidd will allow them to build a natural coach-player dynamic.
"I know he will have to get on me at times and that is fine. I don't see it being a problem. Not at all," D-Will said. "I respect ‘J' a lot and I am eager to learn from him and take direction from him. He's a player I grew up watching and emulating and now I get to learn from him. I got to learn from him a little bit on the Olympic team, but this is a different stage, a different experience. I'm excited about it."
As he talked on Thursday about the future he foresees leading the Nets, Kidd also revealed his respect for Deron as a player and hinted that, from the perspective of a former point guard, No. 8 may act as his right hand on the court.
"I have a lot to learn about coaching, but when I played the game I felt like I was an extension of the coach," he said. "I look to Deron to be that guy to execute the game plan that I think that we can win."
Amongst the things Kidd talked about in his interview for the job with Nets General Manager Billy King was creating an environment that will allow the team's current personnel to thrive. He believes he can put a plan into action the will allow D-Will and his teammates to excel on both ends of the court.
"You have to have structure and understand it starts with your leader," Kidd said. "When you look at Deron, I think he's one of the best in the league at that. That's your best player and he's going to be the one that's going to relay the message as much as guys will hear me talking."
D-Will told reporters the he plans to embrace that role going forward for the Nets and is excited about the different ideas and philosophies Kidd bring to the table.
"That's the goal is to be an extension of him, learn from him and I think his leadership is definitely something I can learn from and improve in," he said. "I was talking to him a little bit about the things he's going to try to do and I think it's going to help me as a player and help our team, the guys we have, to be successful."
In addition to touching on D-Will's role as a leader, Kidd also shared a few of his on-court ideas for the Nets, including utilizing No. 8 in roles other than the standard one guard.
"I want this team to be able to explore early, kind of get up and down," he said. "I want to be able to use guys in different positions where Deron isn't the only one bringing the ball up."
D-Will concurred, noting that Brooklyn is at its best when pushing the ball in transition and increasing its offensive tempo. He also believes the Kidd, one of the league's all-time great passers will help the Nets to become a more multi-dimensional offensive team just by getting them to move the ball more.
"I know he wants to get out and run, which I'm definitely happy about, and ball movement. We talked a lot about it this year. We got into the habit of playing a lot of one-on-one basketball and you look at the teams that won championships, I don't think many of them thrive on just one-on-one basketball. It's about ball movement. It's about sharing the basketball and having fun playing."
In addition to increased offensive pressure and aggression, Deron also hopes that Kidd will bring some true grit back to the Nets.
"That was a big problem for us in the playoffs this year was toughness and intensity and that's something we also talked about implementing early on."
After being ousted by a gritty Chicago Bulls squad in the first round of the playoffs, D-Will sees plenty of room for improvement with the team and commented that the addition of Kidd at coach is the next step toward competing for a title.
"It's going to be a process. We took a step in the right direction this year. You can say we underachieved but it was a learning experience. It was Brook's first playoffs and it was our first year together. These things don't happen overnight. This is the next step now. We have a new coach. We're going to try and get better. As players we have to take it upon ourselves to work harder and get better in the offseason and be ready to go when training camp starts."
This offseason, D-Will says he is ready to work with and learn from his idol, mentor, friend, and now head coach.
"There's a blank paper that I have right now in my head. The list is infinite," Deron said of what he can learn from Kidd. "He's been doing this for 19 years, that's a lot more experience than I have. He's won a championship; he's won two gold medals. I can learn a lot from him."
With those accolades and history with the Nets franchise, some believe Kidd will replace Deron as the "face of the franchise." D-Will said on Thursday that he'll gladly trade that title to compete for an NBA title.
"He can be the face of the franchise," D-Will said. "I just want to win."