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The Brooklyn Nets made a historic move by signing the first openly gay player in the NBA. However, Jason Collins is no new kid on the block; he's been in the league 10-plus years. He's played alongside his new head coach, Jason Kidd, who was his former teammate with the New Jersey Nets, from 2001-2008.
Collins signed a 10-day contract after taking almost a year off with free agency after publicly announcing he was gay once the 2012-2013 season concluded. The Nets are now one step closer to moving up in the Eastern Conference Standings. Kidd turned things around just in time to put his team in a good position for a playoff run.
"I think it's important that anybody who has the capabilities and skill level [gets] a chance to [do] something he's great at," Kevin Garnett said. "I think it would be bias, and in a sense, racist, if you [were] to keep that opportunity from a person."
"He's a basketball player, a great guy and he can help any team in this league," Kidd said days prior to signing Collins.
Kidd's first year as a head coach has certainly been tumultuous. The first half of the season, his team started off with a 5-12 record in the month of November. His top assistant, Lawrence Frank was fired and then... There was the infamous spilled drink on the court that led to a $50,000 fine from the league offices in New York.
Leaving a lasting impression without team wins was not his vision at all. But that's now in the past, Brooklyn went 10-3 in the month of January and that earned Kidd Coach of the Month honors in the Eastern Conference. The Nets currently hold the sixth spot in the East after a horrendous start to the season.
"The guys are playing well, they're playing hard, we're getting stops and that's been the biggest turnaround. It's almost like it's a new group," Kidd said.
One week into the second half of the season the Nets made some moves to beef up their back court by trading Jason Terry and Reggie Evans for Marcus Thornton with the Sacramento Kings. And just hours before they played the Los Angeles Lakers this past Sunday, they signed Collins who was embraced by the entire team.
"Ownership and management are always trying to make the team better and I'm just here to coach the guys," he explained.
Kidd joins a rare list of players who have jumped from the bench to being a head coach. There's no doubt that Kidd is a Hall of Fame inductee as a player but what accomplishments can he make as a coach? Thus far he's overshadowed many of the mistakes and obstacles he's faced early on.
His august presence on the sideline gave his players more confidence to playing better defense and all around basketball. Kidd no longer sits in disbelief, scratches his head with bewilderment or resembles that inexperienced coach back in October. The 10-time All-Star finally found a way for his team to see success right around the corner. Not such a difficult task since the former point guard directed the court for almost a decade during his playing days.
"I'm just trying to keep guys in position to be successful," Kidd said. "You always want to learn from your mistakes. I wouldn't change anything this year. It's been a process with a new coaching staff and players. With that being said, it's still going to take some time to get it right."
Almost two months away from the season ending, Kidd will possibly enter the playoffs for the first time as a head coach. He'll then embark on new challenges but before that happens there's a lot of basketball to be played. Brooklyn's added some depth to their roster just to further their chances for a postseason run.
Kidd will continue to strive at being a better coach both on and off the court. He harbors no rue in regards to the disastrous start of the season. The only goal now is to make the playoffs and win the NBA Championship. Maybe somewhere down the road Kidd will look into joining the coaching staff for the 2016 Olympics.
"I'm always looking to be better, for now I'll just look forward to learning more each day and help this team be the best they can be."