Learning to Accept Praise: The Journey of Mavs Coach Jason Kidd

Jason Kidd was not happy after Dallas Mavericks’ 121-115 win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday. It was the final game of the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament for the Mavericks, as they won’t be advancing past the group stage. Them missing out on the knockout round would be a much more valid reason for Kidd to be upset than a simple question from ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.

The Mavericks have been one of the better teams early in the 2023-24 season. They are 11-6, which is good enough for fourth place in the Western Conference, a far cry from last season’s struggles after acquiring Kyrie Irving by trade.

MacMahon asked Kidd about one area of team improvement — clutch situations. He asked Kidd how the Mavs have gotten better at those moments, when they were worst in the league in the clutch after trading for Irving. Kidd didn’t take the question well.

“Tim, maybe it’s the things you guys thought should have happened Day 1,” Kidd said at the press conference. “Is that they should be successful right off the bat, and it takes time.”

“As you just mentioned [the Mavericks are] one of the best, if not the best, in clutch time. But that was a big thing you guys wanted to make a big deal about last year. But you’re not making a big deal about it this year, cause s**t’s going good. Right, so write some positive s***.”

The Mavericks’ struggles in clutch situations last season generated significant discussion due to their poor performance after trading for Irving on Feb. 6, 2023. Dallas finished the season with a 38-44 record and missed the play-in tournament. The NBA fined the franchise $750,000 for not earnestly competing the final game of the season. They had a chance to make the play-in if they won.

Adding a player of Irving’s caliber near the trade deadline is supposed to make a team better. The Mavs went 9-18 the rest of the season. The end of their 2022-23 season was a complete mess, and there was curiosity as to how and why that happened so quickly.

If anything, MacMahon was giving the Mavericks a compliment, recognizing their improvement in the clutch and seeking insights from the coach. Instead, Kidd chose to pout and lash out during the press conference, missing an opportunity to offer valuable insight.

The job of sports media is to provide context for the action that fans are watching. If the action is good, they try to explain why, and vice versa when it is bad. If the bad seems to receive more attention, blame that on the consumer. Sports writers strive to communicate what they see in a compelling manner.

Part of Kidd’s frustration with the question was that the media, in his opinion, wasn’t patient enough when discussing the Mavericks’ struggles last season. If he wants to change the national narrative about his team, he should give the media time to notice improvements and handle questions with more professionalism.