Jason Kidd was the starting point guard for the Dallas Mavericks when they captured the 2011 NBA title. He also was one of the team’s leaders in and out of the locker room.
For that, owner Mark Cuban will be forever grateful to Kidd. That’s why when Kidd — now in his first year as the coach in Brooklyn — shook off a shaky start to put the Nets in the thick of the Atlantic Division race, Cuban is one of his followers gleefully smiling in the background.
“I’m happy for J-Kidd,” Cuban said. “I’ve actually kept in touch with him. I want him to get his [butt] kicked when we play him.”
The Mavs (25-19) get their first glimpse of Kidd as a coach when they face the Nets (18-22) at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Barclays Center.
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Brooklyn got off to a poor 4-12 start, which included Kidd reprimanding and reducing the role of top assistant coach Lawrence Frank. But lately, Brooklyn has been the hottest team in the league.
Since the calendar flipped to 2014 the Nets have pieced together an impressive 8-1 record. The turnaround includes a road win at Oklahoma City (95-93) and home victories over Atlanta (91-86), Golden State (102-98) and the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat (104-95 in overtime).
Since the Nets added superstars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett — along with former Mavs guard Jason Terry — in the off-season, Cuban figured it would take some time before they would get their act together.
“Every time there’s been a team that added a bunch of All-Stars it took them awhile to get going,” Cuban said. “What I told [Kidd] was Miami was (9-8 in 2010) and had to have a special meeting after LeBron [James], or whatever, bumped their coach in the first year.
“We’re adding nine guys. It’s not necessarily the same as what Brooklyn is going through, but it takes time for all that to come together, and now they’re starting to see it come together.”
One important element Cuban passed along to Kidd is the value of creating chemistry.
“Chemistry is not easy — it takes time and it takes trust,” Cuban said. “You’ve got to trust everybody — your players, your organization and the coaches — everybody.
“There’s got to be a level of trust in order to have chemistry. That’s not easy to come by, but now it looks like they’re starting to get it.”
The Mavericks got a glimpse Wednesday against Toronto of what life might be like when Dirk Nowitzki has retired.
The 35-year-old Nowitzki sat out against the Raptors because he needed some rest. It started out like it wasn’t going to matter whether Nowitzki was on the floor.
But by the end of the game, the Mavericks were gasping for air and in dire need of a clutch go-to person to bail them out. And while the Mavericks were scoring a mere 12 points in the fourth quarter against the Raptors, Nowitzki was sitting on the bench in street clothes.
Dallas bolted to a 34-13 lead with less than a minute left in the first quarter Wednesday, but wound up losing 93-85. It’s the fifth time this season the Mavericks have lost a game when they led by 17 or more points — they also lost to the Raptors in Dallas when they blew a 19-point lead.
“We just have to do better,” forward Vince Carter said. “More so than it’s the second time versus the Raptors, it’s more than the second time this year for us.
“It’s a game that we should have won, regardless of if Dirk was on the floor or not.”
Nowitzki will be back in the starting lineup Friday night.
Clearing the air
A Dallas-Brooklyn game means the Mavericks get to go up against Deron Williams, the point guard who shunned his hometown Mavs via free agency in 2012 so he could re-sign with the Nets.
Williams was disturbed that Cuban didn’t bother to fly to New York to meet him and the rest of the Mavericks’ contingent during the free agency period. It left the impression that Cuban wasn’t all that keen about Williams’ value to his team.
“On the record, yeah, of course I’m a fan of Deron Williams,” Cuban said. “How can you not be? He’s one of the top point guards in the league.”