The best of enemies
Starring at 34, Kidd driven by new rivalry with LeBron
Posted: Wednesday November 28, 2007 12:47PM; Updated: Wednesday November 28, 2007 3:37PM
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Something tells me that Jason Kidd wouldn't mind playing with LeBron James. Sooner rather than later.
"I always keep in touch with LeBron,'' said Kidd, who became friends with James while they played for USA Basketball last summer in Las Vegas. "I think the sky's the limit for him. We hung out a lot this summer in Vegas and I appreciate the work ethic, that he doesn't just rely on his talent and that he wants to get as much information as possible. Me being on another team, I don't mind cheering for somebody because I want him to be the best that he can be.''
Kidd admits that he and James daydream about contending for championships together in Cleveland. "There's a little talk,'' Kidd said. "But I told him, 'What-ifs can get you in trouble. You go out there and do your thing, and if I don't get to play with you until this summer [at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing], then that's the way it's meant to be. But the big thing is for you to go out there and lead your team.' And that's what he's doing.''
So too is Kidd. The inconsistent Nets were 7-8 after losing 110-103 at home Tuesday to the young Memphis Grizzlies (5-9), but where would New Jersey be without Kidd? He had his fourth triple-double of the season with 12 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists, and afterward he planned to text James with the news that they were now tied for the NBA lead. It's definitely a two-man race: The rest of the league has produced two triple-doubles.
"I tease him about him leading the league,'' Kidd said. "I say, 'Man, I'm not playing hard enough.' I'll say, 'I don't think I'm ever going to get to 37 [points], 12 and 12 [which James posted Saturday against Toronto]. I don't think my numbers will ever be that big. Those are Oscar Robertson numbers.' ''
New Jersey is benefiting from Kidd's newfound rivalry with James. At 34, Kidd was averaging 10.5 assists (second in the NBA to Steve Nash), 11.5 points, and a team-leading 8.9 rebounds. His scoring and shooting are down slightly from last year, but his assists are up. He credits his offseason work at the FIBA Americas tournament for keeping him young.
"Everybody who played this summer has been playing at a higher level,'' Kidd said. "You look at [Dwight] Howard down in Orlando, you look at the kid in Utah, [Deron] Williams, D-Will is playing off the charts. And Mike Miller is shooting the ball great, Michael Redd is playing great, Kobe is playing as Kobe, LeBron is taking it up another notch and Carmelo's playing great.
"That's another challenge. I don't want to be the old guy where they say, 'He's too old, the summer took some steam out of him.' Everyone else is playing at a high level, so why can't I?
"That's why I played this summer. I wanted to play to keep myself in shape and work on my game, and why not go against the best players in the world to do that? So the one thing that I hopefully am doing is driving a market for myself in two years -- when I become a free agent [in 2009] -- so it's not looked upon that I'm 36 and can I still produce.''
Kidd was intrigued last year by a potential trade that would have paired him with Kobe Bryant had the Lakers been willing to package Andrew Bynum with Lamar Odom to New Jersey. While that door now looks shut tight, it is known around the league that Kidd wouldn't mind returning eventually to Dallas, where his 14-year career began.
His first choice obviously would be to return to the NBA Finals with the Nets, but their roster looks like it's on the downside -- a perspective affirmed by team president Rod Thorn's willingness to explore blockbuster deals over the past year. Kidd complained last week that "there is no light at the end of the tunnel'' for the Nets, but the next day he backed away from that critique.
Kidd told me Tuesday that he has no plans to publicly force a trade -- an attempt that failed three years ago. So long as he keeps playing at a high level, Kidd is convinced he'll wind up playing for a contender, whether in New Jersey or elsewhere.
"In this business, it always works out somehow, some way,'' he said. "And if you start to manage stuff, it tends to go the opposite way and it doesn't help you. I've been there, done that.
"So you just play it out. This is my job. That's what you have to do. You learn from what you've gone through early on in your career, and you tend not to make that same kind of mistake.''