Could Jason Kidd lure Giannis Antetokounmpo to the Knicks? A retrospective look at the history between the two

With the season officially over, the New York Knicks have embarked on their latest search for coaches, a process that has been quite familiar to them for the past two decades. Since Jeff Van Gundy resigned in 2001, they have had 12 different head coaches and are about to turn 13 years old.

Acting head coach Mike Miller has earned a glimpse into the job full-time with his job since taking over from David Fizdale, while several assistant coaches include: Mike Brown (Warriors), Ime Udoka (76ers), Pat Delany (Magic ) and Chris Fleming (Bulls): everyone is expected to be interviewed. They also interviewed Tom Thibodeau, who was once considered one of the first favorites.

However, one name has stood out among the Knicks’ reported candidates: Jason Kidd. The future Hall of Fame member spent the last season of his playing career with the Knicks, and is now on the Los Angeles Lakers’ bench as an assistant. He has largely faded as a head coach in his previous two terms with the Brooklyn Nets (44-38) and Milwaukee Bucks (139-152), but the Knicks are not as interested in his results as in the relationships he built along the way.

In particular, the Knicks reportedly believe Kidd could help them lure Giannis Antetokounmpo to Madison Square Garden in the summer of 2021. They are not the first team to think this way; There were reports that the Lakers had the same idea – and it’s no secret that Giannis admired Kidd.

All of this could be irrelevant if Giannis decides to re-sign in Milwaukee, an attractive option that considers both financial incentives and the ability to compete for a title. But, assuming he reaches unrestricted free agency in 2021, would Kidd’s presence really be enough to influence him to sign with New York?

In January 2018, with the Bucks stomping on their way to another .500 season, the team fired Kidd. Giannis was clearly on the rise to stardom, but the team was stagnant and his defense was a disaster. When they let him go, even Kidd knew his time was up.

The notion that Kidd could influence Giannis’ free agency decision stems directly from comments and reports following his dismissal. Giannis was “devastated,” according to a report by Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Giannis offered to make some calls for the team to reverse the decision, Kidd said in an interview with ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.

“He called me and said, ‘Coach, this is not correct what you are about to do, but [they] I’ll let you go, ‘”Kidd told ESPN.

Kidd said he replied, “I had a feeling it was going to happen.”

To which Antetokounmpo replied: “What can I do? I will call the owners, I will call my agent.”

Kidd said he said, “There is nothing you can do. All you can do is tell the truth. That is all.”

In his first public comments on the layoff, Giannis was effusive with his praise.

“It is a big part of my success in the league,” said Giannis. “I am loyal to the people I work with. I love him as a person. I care about him as a person.”

“I was just 18 years old. I didn’t even know how the NBA worked. [Kidd’s firing] It hurts a little more because it was here for 3 and a half years. He trusted me. He put the ball in my hands. It pushed me to be great. “

This sounds good enough for Kidd, but if we’re considering evidence that Giannis would be leaving the Bucks to reunite with Kidd, we should be aware that ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Milwaukee was not concerned about that.

“Giannis has a good relationship with Kidd,” Wojnarowski said on “SportsCenter” at the time. “He is a respectful guy. He will be respectful of whoever the coach is. But the organization didn’t see anything there that would hurt them in the long run with Giannis. He wants to win. They feel like they’ve got a team that can do better.”

In other words, winning is the most important thing. But that does not mean that there is no link between them. Kidd was the one who put the ball in Giannis’ hands, let him play as a point guard and helped develop the ball handling, passing and vision that have made him such a dynamic and dominant player. Kidd was there during Giannis’ formative seasons, as the Greek Freak matured as a player and as a person. Even now, Giannis has played more games for Kidd than any other coach.

However, despite all the good things Kidd did, there were many negatives. He forbade Giannis to take 3, a mandate that crushed his young star’s confidence, and now he looks even more foolish than at the time. Through the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

After Antetokounmpo shot 34.7% on 118 three-point attempts as a rookie, Kidd told him to stop shooting from the outside. That affected Antetokounmpo.

“I think it was my second year that he told me not to throw the ball,” Antetokounmpo said. “Then, my third year, at the end of the year, he told me to throw the ball a little. In my fourth year, he let me throw the ball and in my fifth year he told me: ‘You have the green light, do what you want”, but he was not comfortable enough. It’s hard. When you’re not shooting the ball, it’s hard to go back [to shooting]”

Then there was Kidd’s hard nose style. Although Giannis admitted that he enjoyed it at the time, he now has enough experience to know that it is not the way to long-term success.

“I was used to [former Bucks coach] Jason Kidd, “Giannis told Yahoo Sports earlier this season. He was breaking us up, but he was happy about it. I think I was the only one hugging him. I came out of nowhere and worked hard every day. That’s what that I did was used to.

“Having Jason Kidd was fun. Obviously we didn’t get out of the first round, but it’s different. As if it was the middle, Jason Kidd was here and Mike Bud[enholzer] it’s there [in coaching philosophy]. They are totally different. Mike Bud wants you to rest, he wants you to stay with your family, but the day we exercise, he wants you to be there and he wants you to give everything. “

On top of that, Kidd never built a team or system that maximized Giannis’ abilities, made the Bucks play a silly, outdated defense and couldn’t get them out of the first round. With his combination of skills and determination, Giannis would have become an MVP candidate no matter what, but it’s hard to imagine him turning Milwaukee into a perennial contender if he was still stuck with Kidd. At both ends, the Budenholzer’s Bucks have maximized their talent by playing a radically different style.

Also relevant: Giannis reported that he didn’t like the Knicks because of the way they treated his brother Thanasis, and his quotes about not wanting to play in a big market.

As much as Giannis respects and admires Kidd, he’s surely smart enough to recognize how much better his basketball life has been with Budenholzer. This season, Giannis will likely earn his second MVP and first Defensive Player of the Year award, and Milwaukee has been the best team in the league, at least in the regular season.

Why would I want to go back to how things were?