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Fratello's Feeling: As Kidd goes, so will the Nets

Success could depend on how fast Kidd masters "game coaching"
10/29/2013 10:12 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Jason Kidd has a lot to learn, says Mike Fratello, but Lawrence Frank will be a huge resource.(AP)
The Brooklyn Nets acquired a lot of experience, especially championship experience, when they imported Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry from Boston this summer and added Andrei Kirilenko as a free agent – but as Nets on YES analyst (and 1985-86 NBA Coach of the Year) Mike Fratello warns, experience also could mean a little bit of a breakdown if the team isn’t careful.

“The team’s biggest X-Factor…can I say the team’s medical staff? Because I think that their biggest concern is going to be the status of these older players as they go through the season,” Fratello said. “The big question is, can they remain healthy for an 82-game season? They’re relying on a lot of guys who have a lot of mileage on them, and while these guys have always kept themselves in good shape and have always been in good health, in a season where the expectations are as high as they are in Brooklyn, the team can’t afford to have key guys go down with big time or serious injuries.”

That said, Fratello did opine that the aforementioned championship experience will come in very handy whether they see hundreds of minutes or none, because Pierce, Garnett, and Terry at least all can help their new teammates learn one valuable championship-caliber skill: sacrifice.

“They bring a championship pedigree with them, and an understanding already of having to blend in and give themselves up to be part of a championship whole,” Fratello said “A lot of players and teams don’t understand that stars have to give up shots or minutes or the spotlight sometimes to allow someone else to be “the guy,” but Pierce and Garnett with the Celtics, and Terry in Dallas, they have done it and they understand that.”

It may be a hard skill to acquaint with if only because of personal pride, but as Fratello says, many of the players who were in Brooklyn last year had to start, and now can learn how to take that next step from their new teammates.

“For the holdovers in Brooklyn, this is a new thing to acquire this type of talent, and they now have to look around and say “I might not get the last shot” or “I’m only averaging eight FG attempts a game instead of 12” and that’s all part of it,” Fratello said. “Sometimes, you have to give that up to be ultimately successful.”

As great as the Boston trio is however, Fratello wanted not to sleep on Kirilenko as a very key acquisition, because while “AK-47” may not have that “championship experience” per se, he so badly wants to and has the versatility to do whatever needs to be done to get it.

“The Nets bought themselves a great insurance policy with Kirilenko, because you can play him wherever you have to. If somebody goes down and you have to insert him into the starting lineup, he can cover more than one position so you’re very flexible,” Fratello said. “He’s a former All-Star, and he’s a very unselfish player who does all the small things – he’ll battle for an offensive rebound, hit a big 3-point shot, have a big block from the weak side defensively. Whether he ends up as a starter, a sixth man, or a deeper bench player, you’re not going to find many better players who can do what he can. He’s a great acquisition.”

With the roster analyzed, that leaves one more new spot for Fratello to break down, and it’s the one most near and dear to his heart. Before he was “The Czar of the Telestrator” and one of the most respected analysts in the game, Fratello was an elite coach who won 667 NBA games (the 19th-most all-time entering this year) over parts of 19 seasons, so he’s seen it all – and because Jason Kidd hasn’t, at least as a head coach, Fratello believes learning on the fly will be J-Kidd’s biggest adjustment as he steps into a leadership role.

“We could talk about a hundred different situations for a new head coach, but a lot of stuff happens that you can’t prepare for during an NBA season. You try to have all your offenses in, your defenses in, your three-point and out-of-bounds and last-second plays in, but there’s other things that come up that you might not have prepared for, and you have to handle those as they happen,” Fratello said. “That’s where the language “game coaching” comes from; game coaching is quick decision making, adjustments on the fly, adjustments at halftime and things like that, and that will all be part of what Jason will go through and absorb. But, he has a great guy next to him in Lawrence Frank to fall back on to help him through those times.”

And when those times are tough, Fratello says, that’s when everyone – most notably Kidd himself – will learn what the new coach is made of.

“The toughest times seem to come for all coaches when they go through the two, three, or four-game losing streaks that upper echelon teams don’t expect,” Fratello said. “They seem to happen every once in a while, and for a new coach like Jason, it’s going to be a test of his ability to keep the guys focused and get through that tough time, and we’ll see how he’s able to keep their minds on the ultimate goal and work through it and get back on a winning streak again.”

Because of his two-game suspension to start the season, Kidd may come back for game No. 3 and find out how to handle adversity or prosperity right away, so the world may not have to wait long for an answer to those questions (and more) about the 2013-14 Brooklyn Nets.

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