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Commentary, news, analysis and reader-driven discussions focusing on this year's NBA playoffs.
11:30 p.m. ET, 5/18/07

Kidd's Last Stand in N.J.?

Posted by Chris Mannix
The Nets without Jason Kidd (left) and Vince Carter? New Jersey fans could easily see that scenario play out next season.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- How do you measure a champion? It's about 6-foot-4, 210 pounds and answers to the name Jason Kidd.

The mass media that has descended upon New Jersey these last few weeks is running out of superlatives to describe the Nets' star. Brilliant. Superb. Unstoppable. All are applicable, but not one seems to do him justice.

Take Friday night: The Nets followed the worst quarter in franchise history (a record-low six points in the fourth quarter of Game 5) with a clunker of almost equal proportions. Fifteen points. Seven rebounds. A shooting percentage of 33.3. The Nets dug themselves a hole the size of the Grand Canyon, and it was up to Kidd to dig them out of it.

And he almost did.

For two quarters, Kidd was nearly perfect. He rallied New Jersey all the way back from a 22-point deficit. He was aided by LeBron James being baited into an offensive foul call by Mikki Moore, which sidelined the Cavaliers star for nearly seven minutes of the third quarter. Kidd pushed the tempo, finishing the third period with 12 points, three rebounds and a pair of assists.

Then he ran out of gas.

You can't fault him. Just 48 hours earlier, Kidd had logged 42 minutes, the seventh straight game he played 40 minutes or more. After 44 grueling minutes, his 34-year old legs just couldn't carry him any further.

Free throws, which are usually a good barometer for fatigue, became a problem. Kidd bricked three in the fourth quarter and finished the game 4-for-7 from the charity stripe. His jump shots came up short, with an early fourth-quarter airball punctuating a frustrating period.

As Kidd walked off the court, he exchanged a hug with Cavaliers coach Mike Brown and LeBron James. "I admire that man," says Brown. "He’s unbelievable. A great player."

Says James: "He's probably the best point guard I've ever seen in my whole life. I played against Steve Nash, but in a six-game series ..."

James paused.

"Yeah, he's the best."

Yet many of the fans who streamed out of Continental Airlines Arena had to wonder: Is this the last time they will see Kidd in a Nets uniform?

The answer: Likely. At the very least it's 60-40 in favor of Kidd playing somewhere other than the Swamp next season. Kidd had his boarding pass in hand for Los Angeles when the Lakers pulled Andrew Bynum off the table at the trade deadline. But after another first-round exit (and with Kobe Bryant getting grumpier by the day), Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak may be inclined to include his prized prospect in any Kidd-related deal. He has already stated no one, outside of Kobe, is untouchable. Dallas, too. The Mavericks have would love to have a big-game point guard to take the pressure off Dirk Nowitzki, much the same way Nash did.

Vince Carter may follow suit ("we’ll see what happens," he said after the game). With free agency beckoning, the Nets may decide Richard Jefferson and Carter's games are too similar (they are) and elect to let Carter walk. In that case, Kidd will almost certainly be elsewhere, as the only thing keeping the 13-year veteran from forcing his way out has been annual promises of bolstering the roster. Cosmetic changes like Bostjan Nachbar and Mikki Moore aren't going to cut it. The Nets were seventh in the NBA in payroll this season ($67 million), and even if they jettison Carter's $16 million contract, there aren't marquee names out there that make sense for New Jersey. Chauncey Billups plays the same position and Chris Mihm, Andres Nocioni and Anderson Varejao don't make players like Kidd jump out if his seat.

If this is the end of the line for Kidd -- and Lawrence Frank was unwilling to admit it, saying, "it will be a decision for Rod [Thorn] in the offseason" -- it will be the departure of one of the greatest point guards who ever lived from a franchise he effectively breathed life into. Before Kidd's arrival in '01, the Nets qualified for the postseason once in seven years. Think the crowds here are lousy? Try playing in front of a handful of tourists who got lost on the way to Giants Stadium.

Kidd, who now will prepare to play for Team USA this summer, has not only taken his game to another level in New Jersey, he has elevated the games of virtually every player who has suited up next to him. Moore. Jefferson. Kerry Kittles. Lucious Harris. Kenyon Martin. The list is endless. Parting ways with Kidd will not be bittersweet. It will just be bitter.

Thorn has some big decisions to make. Does he dump the bulk of his roster and rebuild around Bynum, Jefferson and a free agent like Darko Milicic? Or does he roll the dice that the return of a healthy Nenad Krstic is enough to push this team to the next level?

"I would love to win a championship here," says Kidd. "No matter what happens this summer, I plan on being here for the rest of my career."

There it is, the gauntlet has been thrown. Suffice it to say, there will be traffic off Exit 16W this summer.

posted by SI.com | View comments |  


Posted: 8:25 PM, May 22, 2007   by Anonymous
I sincerely hope that they keep everyone and bring back Nenad. If they do get rid of Carter, they better get a good power forward or it will be a huge mistake. Cavs winning was a fluke, since Nets should have won Game 5 and 6, though the Big 3 got tired of doing everything themselves. I truly believe that if we had a healthy Nenad and Eddie House, we would be in the position to compete if not beat the Pistons. DO NOT, I REPEAT DO NOT TRADE KIDD. Otherwise we the crowd will probably only be tourists again. And if they really want to make a trade, get Rashard Lewis somehow in the end for Carter, or trade Jefferson + Collins + Marcus Williams + 2 1stRD Drafts for Kevin Garnett and Mike James. Those salaries shoudl even out. N-E-T-S, Nets, Nets, Nets!!!
Posted: 12:21 AM, May 23, 2007   by John Whitlock
Jason Kidd is a great player BUT he is getting on in years and is a knee injury away from a terminated career. The Nets have a great-looking young PG in Marcus Williams. If they can trade Kidd for Jordan Farmar, a 1st round pick & salaries, GO FOR IT!!!!
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