Jason Kidd was in a foul mood after the Dallas Mavericks’ 121-115 victory against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday. It was the final game of the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament for the Mavericks, since they will not be advancing past the group stage. Them missing out on the knockout round would be a much more legitimate 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 start that is in stark contrast to the way that the Mavs crumbled down the stretch last season after acquiring Kyrie Irving by trade.
MacMahon asked Kidd about one particular area of team improvement — clutch situations. He asked Kidd how the Mavs have gotten better at in those moments, when they were worst in the league in the clutch after trading for Irving. Kidd gave a querulous response.
“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 reason that the Mavericks issues in the clutch were frequently discussed last season is that when they traded for Irving on Feb. 6, 2023 they were fifth in the West and three games above .500. 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.
Bringing in 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 those of us who cover the NBA were curious as to how and why that happened so quickly.
If anything, MacMahon was giving the Mavericks a compliment. Who knows, maybe he is working on a story about the team’s improvements in the clutch and thought that their head coach might have some insight as to what the players he works with every day are doing differently?
MacMahon was literally asking a positive question. He was giving Kidd and the players some credit for starting the 2023-24 season on the right track. Instead of offering a bit of his expertise to fans and media, Kidd chose to pout, curse and tersely walk out of the press conference.
The job of sports media is to put into context the action that fans are watching. If the action is good, we try to explain why, and vice versa when it is bad. If the bad seems to ring out more, blame that on the consumer. As I have been reminded over the last two days, a large swath of people prefer to jeer rather than applaud.
That is not MacMahon’s fault, my fault or anyone else who writes about sports. At best, we attempt to communicate what we see with nuance, but still in a way that compels people to read and share.
Part of Kidd’s dissatisfaction with the question was that the media, in his opinion, wasn’t patient enough when discussing the Mavericks continuity issues last season. If he wants the national narrative to change about his team, how about he gives the media more than a month and a half to notice it. And then when he is asked about the improvement, perhaps he shouldn’t use the opportunity to lash out.