When we think about last year’s at times hilariously disappointing Lakers season, injuries will probably be far and away the factor most people look back on and wonder what might’ve been. A lot did change in the seasons after the 2019-’20 title, though, and while Russell Westbrook is clearly the main addition that might have derailed the franchise’s direction, subtractions from the sidelines mattered quite a bit, too.
This week on “The Anthony Irwin Show,” I welcomed Kirk Henderson of Mavs Moneyball to discuss a coach whose presence might have mattered a whole lot more than we originally thought it might. Given the incredible run the Dallas Mavericks are on, it seems pretty clear the Lakers missed Jason Kid quite a bit this season.
(To be absolutely clear, the reasons for my not wanting him to be the head coach extended well beyond basketball and on that front, I maintain that his criminal background concerned me.)
Over the course of the season, reports surfaced about Westbrook, um, not exactly responding well to criticism from the coaching staff on his approach, especially defensively. Hall-of-fame players tend to respond better to voices with a certain amount of cache and Kidd, given his own great career, holds that weight in the locker room.
Perhaps if the exact same message Frank Vogel and his staff were trying to get across was reinforced with Kidd’s reputation with current players, maybe Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis might’ve further committed to what was needed more consistently on both ends.
Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered because of the aforementioned injuries. Maybe Kidd’s resurgence as a respected head coach is more a result of Luka Doncic just being that special. Given how disappointing last season was for the Lakers and how miraculous this year has been for Dallas, though, it’s impossible not to notice the roll Kidd might’ve played in both.
Kirk and I discussed all that, how interesting it was to see so many players reveling in the Phoenix Suns losing, words that are impossible to say in an intimidating fashion and plenty more.
And for a short-form recap pod, check out Lakers Lowdown, in which Anthony Irwin recaps the previous day’s news and gets you ready for the day ahead in LakerLand, every weekday morning on the Silver Screen & Roll Podcast feed.