HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – When Jason Kidd was hired as the Brooklyn Nets’ new coach in June, he used part of his introductory news conference to recruit Lawrence Frank as his lead assistant. And Frank was eventually given a six-year contract worth $6 million to be the experienced coach to help the rookie learn the ropes.
Now, just 17 games into the pair’s first season in Brooklyn, Frank is off the bench. Kidd announced before the Nets’ game against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday that Frank has been “reassigned” and will no longer sit on the bench for games or take part in practices.
It’s the latest twist in what has been an awful start to the Nets’ season. And only time will tell if it has an effect — positive or negative — on the team long-term.
If you watched the Nets’ episode of Real Training Camp in October, you saw and heard Frank running much of the practice. Nets point guard Shaun Livingston told reporters Tuesday that Frank “was obviously a voice, so that’s the hardest part.”
Was he too much of a voice? Kidd said the change was about “different philosophies.” YahooSports.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that this all stems from a conflict at an early-season meeting.
Hours after a blowout loss to the Orlando Magic – Kidd’s first game on the bench following a two-game suspension to start the season – the entire coaching staff witnessed Kidd lose his temper with Frank and escalate a strangely uneasy and brief coaching partnership together.
There had been conversations about moving forward together in recent weeks, league sources said, but the decision to let go of Frank was Kidd’s choice.
Frank was said to be this Nets team’s defensive coordinator. And through Monday, Brooklyn ranked 29th in defensive efficiency. But that was just one of the Nets’ issues. They also ranked in the bottom 10 offensively and they’ve already missed a combined 42 games from their top eight players.
“This is the decision that I had to make,” Kidd said.
When Kidd was hired, it was acknowledged that he would need time to adjust to a much different role than the one he had as a Hall of Fame point guard. So, even though the Nets have been a disaster thus far, it’s a little early for serious criticism. You can’t expect him to be Gregg Popovich (or even Mike Budenholzer) just 17 games into his career.
But Kidd’s inability to coexist with someone who is recognized as a bright basketball mind and a tireless worker will be added to his file. Interestingly, the situation is a little reminiscent of what went down in 2005, when Frank was the Nets’ head coach. The team had hired assistant Gordon Chiesa away from the Jazz, but before the regular season even got started, Chiesa resigned. And it was later reported that he had wanted more responsibility under Frank.
Sometimes, relationships just don’t work out. But these Nets aren’t the ’05-06 Nets, and Kidd and Frank both arrived with much higher profiles than Gordon Chiesa.
These Nets have a $102 million payroll, an $87 million luxury tax bill and, now, a guy they’re paying $6 million not to be an assistant coach. So there should certainly be some scrutiny for the man in charge of bringing out the best in one of the league’s most talented rosters. So far, it ain’t happening.
And after Tuesday, the burden for turning things around is on Kidd’s shoulders more than ever.