Careful what you wish for
Kidd wants new home, but Nets control the cards now
Posted: Tuesday January 29, 2008 1:48PM; Updated: Tuesday January 29, 2008 1:48PM
Jason Kidd slipped on his San Antonio Spurs practice jersey, then turned toward the flat-screen TV in the room, where some talking head was dishing the latest NBA scuttlebutt. "How 'bout that New Jersey point guard, wanting out again?'' Tim Duncan, always the joker, teased him.
Robert Horry and Bruce Bowen, suiting up nearby, laughed, and Kidd did too because they all understood: That could have been Kidd stuck in the swamps of Jersey, unhappy, seeking a trade. Then the moment passed, because the Spurs had their own issues to address, like sputtering along near .500 since early December. And Kidd was starting to feel some responsibility for Michael Finley's recent shooting slump ...
Actually, that could have been Jason Kidd. Had he chosen to sign with San Antonio in July 2003, when he was a free agent and thus able to control his whereabouts for the foreseeable future, he might be laboring to get the Spurs back on top in the Western Conference, in position for their fourth championship in six years (and his third in four).
Instead, Kidd re-signed with the Nets, agreeing to a six-year-deal worth $99 million to maintain a pretty nice status quo: two consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, a front office eager to please him, a market preferred by his wife, Joumana, even a local golf instructor who clicked so well with his little boy.
That's why the game's best pure point guard chose to stay where he was, for another six seasons. Not three. Not four. Six.
"After great thought and consultation with the important people in my life, I have decided that I want to remain a New Jersey Net,'' Kidd said at the time.
And now? This is what Kidd had to say in a report posted on ESPN.com Monday night, 4½ seasons into that six-year deal: "We tried to make this work. We've found out it doesn't. It's time for us all to move on.''
Jason Kidd had his chance. He had his chance to move, analyzed the situation, made a decision and, like the grown man and businessman he is, signed his name to the paperwork. Then, for the most part, until a regrettable night in early December when he allegedly pulled a one-man, one-game strike, the veteran point guard lived up to the terms. Kidd steered the Nets to four more postseason appearances, three into the second round, and a 179-149 regular-season record in that span in the squeezably soft Eastern Conference.
Oh, there was drama, from Alonzo Mourning's kidney failure just 12 games into his partnership with Kidd in 2003-04 to the point guard's perceived power struggle with coach Byron Scott before Scott was fired midway through that season (worth noting: The Nets were 22-20 at the time, and Scott's current team in New Orleans is 31-12). Off the court, Kidd's failing marriage grabbed headlines, too. And he mastered the art of "does he or doesn't he?'' trade-demand waffling on the East Coast long before Kobe Bryant made it fashionable out West.
All of that pales, however, next to the sourness and passive-aggressive antics of this season. Besides the suspect migraine that made him a no-show for the Nets' game with New York on Dec. 5 -- reportedly Kidd's response when his request for a contract extension went nowhere -- there has been an alleged slowdown on the job. In five games prior to New Jersey's home date with Milwaukee on Tuesday, Kidd had averaged 10.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists, decent numbers for most players but well short of the 11.6, 8.6 and 10.5 he posted in November and December. And since he called in sick for that Knicks game, the Nets had gone 9-17, including nine losses in a row.
On Sunday in Minneapolis, before his team blew a 15-point lead in its worst defeat yet (and Kidd passed for just one assist in the final three quarters), the 34-year-old looked reporters in the eyes and said he wanted to stay in New Jersey. Barely 24 hours later, he was going national with his desire to leave.
Which is fine, we suppose, except that now it is the Nets' turn. It is team president Rod Thorn's chance to make a move, analyze the situation, make a decision and sign the paperwork. In a league that tries to discourage trades, facing rules designed to thwart them, Thorn already has his hands half-tied to find value for his team's best-known asset. The last thing he needs to worry about is whether Kidd will like the destination.