“I’m not the savior here, I’m not playing, I’m watching.” Jason Kidd stated nine months ago as the Western Conference Finals honeymoon faded into the realm of disappointment from the players and coaching last season.
With seven new players this season, the franchise hit reset and Kidd brought back three core values seen in his first season as the Dallas Mavericks head coach: Accountability, Coaching and Trust. It is paying dividends as the Mavericks hold a 7-2 record to start the 2023-24 NBA season, the best nine-game stretch to start a season for the organization since 2007-08. Kidd has made good decisions including improved pace, consistent lineups, late-game adjustments and timeout management this season. His coaching has led the team to a hot start while instilling accountability and trust within the team.
“It’s the makeup of that group when you talk about pros. Everyone wants to play but everybody accepting their roles. There’s gonna be times when guys might be out of the rotation, it’s not that they done anything, but we have to look at the whole group as a whole. We just talked about the (preseason) trip being on the road, getting to know one another and then understanding what we’re playing for.” Jason Kidd responded on what attributes to a team being able to have open discussions about accountability and that be received positively.
Was last season an anomaly? Did he just not like the roster he had?
Kidd’s second season (38-44 and missed playoffs) was not as good as the first season (52-30 and reached Western Conference Finals). It deserved the criticism that followed as he was making numerous rotation changes, not using his timeouts during opposing team runs and seen watching on the sidelines. The third season gives an idea on which side to learn towards on how good his coaching really is. It can bring you back to the initial reasons you liked the first season or it can continue to plummet in a direction to help you reach a conclusion that the first season will never be replicated.
This is the third season for Kidd and he is making a good impression.
“Trust, chemistry and also accountability is at a high right now… Last year, we wouldn’t be winning these type of games. Especially a back-to-back.” Tim Hardaway Jr. stated in a post-game press on the difference between this season and last season.
Kidd credited the preseason overseas trip in Abu Dhabi and Spain as an opportunity for his team to develop chemistry. Which leads to the team having open discussions and being able to speak their mind for the betterment of the team. This was shown when Kidd told the team they were soft after giving up 72 points in the paint to Toronto Raptors.
“Being able to be in that locker room and just be honest about what we did tonight. We were soft in the interior, in the paint tonight. When your coach is calling you soft, you gotta take that personally and take that as a challenge.” Kyrie Irving stated in a post-game press conference on the team’s candidness with each other and the coaching staff.
The next game, the Mavericks defeated the LA Clippers by 18 points.
Kidd’s adjustments at halftime and during the final minutes of games have improved, as well as timeout management when opposing team is making a run. The Mavericks are 6-0 in clutch games this season, which is defined by the game margin within five-or-fewer points within the last five minutes of the game. Kidd also led the Mavericks to comeback wins after trailing by 12-or-more points at halftime, when they defeated the Hornets and the Orlando Magic.
The Mavericks average 31.6 points in the fourth quarter, second in the league in fourth quarter scoring averages. Last season, The communication from Kidd on the court during games is seen more this season.
Kidd also gives his players freedom to have discussions in the locker room. He has mentioned Markieff Morris having a big impact and being a voice on this Mavs team, by not only cheering on his teammates but keeping everyone calm and together.
His decision to define the role of sixth man for Tim Hardaway Jr. has been a key factor in early success. Hardaway Jr. has been a hybrid in starting and coming off the bench in his six-year tenure with the organization. He is on pace for a career year and top sixth man in the league. Inserting veteran Jones Jr. and rookie Dereck Lively II into the starting lineup have shown his ability to experiment with two players who weren’t on the team last year.
Kidd finding a role for Jaden Hardy shows his investment in development. Hardy didn’t play in the first two games of the season. Kidd gave him a chance in the third game of the season against the Grizzlies when Irving went out with a foot sprain and has been in the rotation ever since, even when the All-Star guard returned. Keep in mind, Mavericks were 2-0 and Kidd still looked to Hardy to provide a spark, opposed to simply giving veterans Exum and Curry more minutes.
Dončić, Irving and Grant Williams are leaders for the Mavericks, but there’s three other players that show Kidd’s trust in them this season.
Derrick Jones Jr.
Jones Jr. has taken advantage of the opportunity he has this season. He is averaging a career-high in minutes per game and three-point percentage as he find himself open often beyond the arc with passes from Dončić and Irving. Jones Jr. was one of the last signings the Mavericks made in the offseason and the 26-year-old forward worked himself in the starting lineup with his defense, athleticism and improved shooting.
“My teammates, coaching staff, just everyone around me telling me to bring my game and be who I am. Just gotta keep going.” Jones Jr. stated on what’s given him the most confidence to start the season.
Jones Jr. is off to a great start to the season, averaging 9.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.0 assist in 9 games this season. He is shooting 50.7% FG and 37.1% beyond the arc. He recorded 11 points (4-10 FG, 1-4 3FG, 2-2 FT), 10 rebounds, three assists and three steals against the Clppers, his first career double-double.
Dereck Lively II
Lively II recorded a double-double against the Spurs in the season opener (16 points, 10 rebounds), which marked the first by a Mavericks rookie coming off of the bench in their debut. Lively II has started every game that he has played in after the season debut.
Lively II has averaged 8.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.0 blocks in 8 games this season. Lively II ranks first among rookies in field goal percentage (70.5%), ninth in total points scored (69), fourth in total rebounds (58) and second in offensive rebounds (22).
Lively II has eighth consecutive games with a block since his debut. He is the only Mavericks rookie to accomplish that feat in his first eight games, and his eight consecutive games with a block ties for the fifth-longest streak with a block by a Mavericks rookie.
Exum has been playing overseas the past few seasons and looked at this opportunity with the Mavericks as his second chance to stay in the NBA. The past two games, Kidd has utilized him as a full-court defender and a big guard who can push the offensive tempo for the team.
In the previous two games, Exum has averaged 6.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 2 games in his last 2 games in his career. He is shooting is 50 FG% and 66.7% beyond the arc.
“I thought one of the guys who did a really good job for us who carried over from the Toronto game was Exum. Dante did a really good job of pushing the pace, getting us out and getting us easy looks.” Jason Kidd highlighted Exum’s play in post-game press conference.
Dončić and Irving have listed Kidd as one of the people they look up to in basketball. Irving growing up in New Jersey watching Kidd play for the Nets and Dončić mentioned learning from Kidd being one of the best all-time passers. Kidd has stated many times his two top players do work, as we have seen this season. Maybe Kidd works too as their head coach.