Jason Kidd did some work Thursday, a personal day for his Brooklyn Nets, when he assumed the role of Phil Jackson and Pat Riley and every other playoff coach who pounces on the fact that refs are human, too, and more willing to please after being rebuked before millions of onlookers.
Kidd was even naming names on his conference call with reporters, claiming that ref Tom Washington missed an obvious Toronto foul on Shaun Livingston in the wild and crazy climax to Game 5, and acting as if Washington impacted the result more than Joey Crawford did in Oklahoma City when he ripped the ball out of Kevin Durant's hands.
It was a smart move from a rookie head coach, smarter than his decision to leave Paul Pierce on his bench after the Nets staged their stunning rally Wednesday night to tie the Raptors. Kidd went on about Toronto's alleged flopping, and how his guys, especially Joe Johnson, wouldn't reduce themselves to such low-rent tactics unless, of course, the officials forced them to in Game 6.
Only here's the thing, no matter how the refs react Friday night in the Barclays Center: If the Nets lose this series, Jason Kidd will be the face of the biggest flop of all.
Deron Williams will be right there with him, since all he's done is help notarize the Knicks' breathless pursuit of Carmelo Anthony three years back. Williams was the Nets' consolation prize in the Melo chase, and one who hasn't provided much in the way of consolation.
But Kidd was the biggest gamble the Nets made, the one Hall of Fame-bound recruit meant to be in place long after the other two (Pierce and Kevin Garnett) are gone. He'd just come out of the Knicks' rotation. Mikhail Prokhorov wanted him, and Billy King eventually went along in large part because everyone believed Kidd would get the best out of Williams, his fellow point guard, and would make Brooklyn a desired destination for available stars around the league the likes of Pierce and Garnett, who combined to play as many minutes as Kidd did in the fourth quarter of Game 5.
Kidd hasn't coached Williams back to being a credible franchise player, and maybe nobody can. A max-out star who seems to run away from max-out responsibilities, Williams doesn't have the competitive soul Kidd had when he took a 26-win Nets team to back-to-back trips to the Finals, and that's a problem when matched against an opponent with Kyle Lowry's motor.
Pierce and Garnett? Though an argument can be made that Kidd did right by benching both in favor of the lesser lights responsible for the Nets' comeback in Toronto, they arrived in the Boston trade as veteran leaders and winners who would ease Kidd's transition to the bench and scare the daylights out of their old friends from Miami in the playoffs. They weren't meant to be endgame cheerleaders on a team threatening to lose to DeMar DeRozan before ever getting to Miami.
"This is about the Brooklyn Nets," Kidd said. "It's not about two guys."