The Milwaukee Bucks have been the NBA’s most pleasant surprise this year.
Under new coach Jason Kidd, they’re 11-11 after winning just 15 in all of 2013-14.
Kidd took a ton of heat in his lone season as Brooklyn Nets coach. It was his first time coaching, and he got off to a slow start with the most expensive roster in the NBA. But he turned things around in the second half of the season, going 35-17 down the stretch and beating the Raptors in the playoffs.
When you combine that with what he has done with the Bucks over the first 22 games of this season, it’s becoming clear that we’ve all underestimated him as an NBA head coach.
Grantland’s Zach Lowe wrote a long article about the Bucks, and it contains a great anecdote about how Kidd keeps his team sharp.
According to Lowe, Kidd gives his team a written test on the morning of every game day. The questions hit on “everything from diagramming a particular set to naming the first coach of the Miami Heat.”
The interesting part: He’s fine with players cheating because it gets them talking about strategy with each other — which is the entire point of the exercise.
“I’m not gonna lie,” [Bucks player Giannis] Antetokounmpo says. “Sometimes I cheat and ask the older guys.”
Kidd hopes the players cheat. He noticed in Dallas how the tests got young guys talking about strategy, and he wants to foster the same kind of dialogue among Milwaukee’s players. Kidd is sometimes unsure the young foreign-born players understand instructions in English, and the discussion gives them another way to absorb coaching, he says.
While the tests are graded and the scores are tracked throughout the season, it’s more about getting players in the right frame of mind than assessing their basketball smarts.
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