Basketball / NBA | NBA REPORT

Kidd being made scapegoat for King's incompetence

by Sam Smith

Brooklyn Nets general manager Billy King is a genius.

Perhaps it doesn’t suggest so the way he’s just about destroyed the franchise.

The Nets went into this past weekend, before beating Milwaukee on Saturday, with a 5-14 record after a pair of embarrassing blowout losses at home by a combined 54 points, first to the Denver Nuggets.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, they fell to city rival New York Knicks in the second rout.

That’s with their largest in the NBA payroll of about $100 million that comes with a league high tax penalty of about $80 million for this season after the much trumpeted acquisitions of Boston Celtics former stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

Pierce is out now with a broken hand — and broken heart for leaving Boston if you can believe the rumors — after a poor start.

And Garnett is having the worst season of his career, which may have hit an all-time low, though most in the NBA cheered last week when Andrea Bargnani was trash-talking Garnett.

It’s an old story around the NBA that Garnett in the classic fashion of a cowardly bully likes to trash talk and try to intimidate just the European players and small guards. He generally stays far away from physical big guys, which is why he developed such a good fadeaway jump shot.

He’s always been averse to contact despite his great skill. But now it’s an open secret in the NBA: He can’t move much. And the international guys are going after him.

The Nets also have been without another former star player, Deron Williams, who had a recurrence of ankle problems that have plagued him the last two years and don’t seem to be getting much better.

Also out has been Russia’s Andrei Kirilenko, who raised eyebrows around the NBA when he left a $10 million payment from the Minnesota Timberwolves to sign for $3 million with the Nets and their Russian owner, billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.

So, yes, the Nets have some legitimate issues which have not been their fault. And you couldn’t find anyone after the Garnett/Pierce acquisition who felt they wouldn’t be a playoff team.

And they could still be in the historically weak Eastern Conference where just three teams were above .500 this past weekend.

But the Nets also basically leveraged their future and traded away most of their draft picks for the next five years. They gave up their pick in the coming draft, which many predict could be the best in 30 years, to the Celtics.

They are stuck at least through next year with much the same roster and the staggering tax bill on top of the ridiculous payroll.

And rookie coach Jason Kidd is getting all the blame.

Has King pulled off the greatest disappearing act since Harry Houdini?

New York labels itself the most sophisticated media market in the United States. It’s like the guy who tells you he’s smart. That’s the first sign not to invest with him.

So New York media, which travels in an ugly pack like wolves anyway, has descended on Kidd and decided he’s to blame for all this.

He’s helped that, of course, as is his stubborn nature, with a league mandated two-game suspension to open the season for a drunk driving conviction and then last week demoting his assistant and former coach, Lawrence Frank, whom he had made the highest-paid assistant in the NBA.

Of course, this is a sweet irony because it was Frank and Kidd who conspired to get head coach Byron Scott fired in the 2003-04 season as Frank succeeded Scott.

Kidd then began to play hard and the Nets ran off 13 straight wins to solidify Frank’s job. But Frank would eventually be fired after an 0-16 start in 2008 and added an 0-8 start in Detroit, where he lasted two seasons as coach.

Nevertheless, he was hired to assist Kidd, who never had coached anywhere at any level and was playing with the Knicks just last season.

Kidd has been regarded as one of the more intelligent players in the game. So it was viewed as a bold move. And also good for headlines, which has been a battle for attention in the New York tabloid newspapers between the owners, Prokhorov and the Knicks James Dolan.

But Frank is about 170 cm with something of a Napoleon complex, a small man in a big world. He’s that guy always telling you how smart he is and how much smarter he is than you and everyone else.

So in a classic contradiction, the Nets coaches went on a typical retreat this past summer, which is usually a lot of golf. Frank brought films and charts for all day sessions and basically diminished most everything Kidd suggested.

The first sign Kidd wasn’t putting up with this was when he had No. 3 assistant Joe Prunty coach the games he was suspended to open the season.

And then as Frank continued to second guess and undermine him, Kidd apparently had enough and demoted Frank, who hired a lawyer to negotiate a buyout.

Hello, Billy?

You hired them all.

New York has difficulty following very much more than the bouncing ball.

The bouncing ball in the Nets case is the Kidd drama, the decline of Garnett and Pierce and the absence of Williams, who, by the way, is known on his own for having undermined and run out his last two coaches, Jerry Sloan and Avery Johnson.

But while everyone is watching the ball bounce into loss after loss, there’s a big, ugly picture escaping.

There’s hardly an athlete to be found on the roster and with both Williams and Joe Johnson with two more seasons at more than $20 million each.

Garnett’s on the books for $12 million next season and by then he could be less flexible than petrified wood. The Nets have no draft picks and little way to get younger or better.

And this is Jason Kidd’s fault?

Now that’s what I call being a brilliant executive.

Sam Smith covered the Chicago Bulls for 25 years with the Chicago Tribune. He is the author of the best-selling book “The Jordan Rules.”