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Column: Jason Kidd’s reputation could mean trouble for the Lakers

Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd comes to the Lakers with some baggage.
(Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)

The news is as astonishing now as it was a couple of days ago: the Lakers are hiring Jason Kidd to be an assistant coach.

Of all of the confounding decisions the Lakers have made over the last couple of months, this is most baffling, if only because of how completely avoidable it was.

The Lakers are the farmer asking the fox to guard the henhouse. They are the Trojans wheeling the wooden horse behind their walls.

They are asking for trouble.

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The problems they have courted already have surfaced, as the clock started ticking on incoming coach Frank Vogel even before his appointment became official Monday afternoon.

In a town where perception is reality, the widespread assumption is that Kidd is the coach-in-waiting. See what happens if the Lakers begin next season erratically. Vogel will make Luke Walton’s dead-man-walking routine feel mild by comparison.

What’s most incredible about this debacle-in-the-making is the only people unaware of what’s coming appear to be owner Jeanie Buss, general manager Rob Pelinka and the others who are part of the team’s incestuous little decision-making circle.

To be fair, there was a time when they knew.

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When Walton was still employed by the Lakers, Kidd reinforced his image as a schemer, speaking publicly about the team’s head coaching position.

In an appearance on ESPN’s “The Jump” in March, Kidd complimented Walton, but added, “We’ll wait ’til the season’s over to see what opportunities come about.”

Buss was disinclined to hire the Hall of Fame point guard in any capacity. But Kidd’s agent, Jeff Schwartz, has a good relationship with Buss advisor Linda Rambis and was able to get his client an interview.

Kidd sold himself as a confidante of LeBron James and possible mentor for Lonzo Ball to Pelinka and Rambis’ husband, Kurt, the team’s senior basketball advisor — and, by extension, to Buss. She ignored her initial misgivings.

The episode raises the question of whether it’s better to have never known the truth or to have known and be talked out of it. The vote here is the first.

Kidd is an average coach, as indicated by his career record of 183-190 with the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks.

His best season was his first, with the Nets in 2013-14, when he won 44 regular-season games and coached the team to the second round of the playoffs.

Even then, there was turbulence.

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He was suspended for the first two games of the season for pleading guilty to driving impaired.

He once told one of his players to purposely bump him, so he could spill soda on the court and force a stoppage in play when he was out of timeouts.

He convinced the Nets to make Lawrence Frank the highest-paid assistant in league history — Frank was signed to a six-year, $6-million contract — only to permanently banish his former head coach from the bench after a disagreement.

When the season ended, Kidd demanded full control of the Nets’ basketball operations. When he was rebuffed, he escaped to the Bucks, who traded a couple of second-round draft picks for him. The Bucks already had a coach in Larry Drew, but he was pushed out by Kidd.

Kidd was fired in January 2018, during his fourth season with the Bucks. The team was 23-22 at the time. The Bucks followed that by winning a league-best 60 games this season.

Kidd coupled with drama is nothing new.

As a player in college and in the NBA, Kidd developed a reputation as a coach killer. He was believed to have played a role in Lou Campanelli’s firing from Cal and Byron Scott’s from the Nets.

And none of that touched the most disturbing part of his history, his 2001 arrest for domestic violence. He pleaded guilty to assaulting his wife. The couple’s divorce in 2007 unearthed more accusations of abuse.

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If Kidd can deliver victories, the Lakers’ fan base probably will look past these stigmas. These were the same fans who never wavered in their support of Kobe Bryant, after all.

That shouldn’t make his eventual ascension to head coach any more acceptable. Through their actions, the Lakers should be telling their fans for what they stand, not pushing the boundaries of decency.

If Buss and Pelinka were reality show producers, Kidd would be a smart choice. If the Lakers fail to attract a top free agent to pair with James and if next season also becomes a lost cause, Kidd will ensure the team remains interesting.

Only this isn’t the kind of interest they should want. They already have embarrassed themselves enough.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

Follow Dylan Hernandez on Twitter @dylanohernandez


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