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The Ball's in His Hands
Johnette Howard
November 11, 1996
Jason Kidd, the Mavericks' precocious point guard, must prove he has the steadiness to lead a fragile team
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November 11, 1996

The Ball's In His Hands

Jason Kidd, the Mavericks' precocious point guard, must prove he has the steadiness to lead a fragile team

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It didn't help that Kidd and Jackson had quit speaking to each other. Other issues slipped in and took hold. Jackson thought Motta sided with Kidd. (Motta, now a Nuggets assistant, declines comment.)

Oblique but persistent published reports said the two guards' squabble was partly over a "mystery woman" later identified as pop singer Toni Braxton. Shaking his head now, Jackson says, "People actually come up to me now and ask, 'What's she like? What's Toni like?' And I say, 'Brother, I don't know. I don't even know the woman.' "

Kidd says, "I was supposed to meet her last [Dec. 4 and 5] when we were in New York. She was in the studio, recording. But I didn't go." Nevertheless, a Dallas Morning News columnist, citing unnamed team sources, wrote that Braxton called Kidd after they missed each other in New York and said she was sorry he wasn't feeling well—but it was nice of him to send Jackson in his stead. When Braxton was reached for corroboration, she coyly said, "A girl will never kiss and tell, you know that." The columnist reported that Jackson was unavailable for comment. Soon the unrefuted story was picked up by publications from Vibe magazine to the National Enquirer.

Kidd's father, Steve, a retired TWA supervisor who lives in Oakland, saw his son suffering through the team's disintegration. "It was eating him up," Steve says. "When I was visiting him and the team lost or something else happened, he wouldn't even eat dinner. We'd go straight home after games. He'd go to bed, go to sleep and hope it'd all be over when he woke up."

What was going on? Kidd says, "It's not my nature to say things or get into people's faces or confront them." But the Mavs had no other vocal leaders or veterans to demand accountability. Kidd set aside whatever misgivings he had about his readiness for a leadership role and bulled ahead, speaking out, critically but vaguely, and learning as he went. The results were decidedly mixed.

"That was the only time he seemed young to me," says Jones. "Jason said things that needed to be said. But he didn't always say them to people's faces. He didn't know how."

Over the summer Kidd's dissatisfaction grew to include the Mavs' new management team. "There were a lot of promises thrown in my face which I never saw [kept]," he said.

Asked if he knows what promises Kidd is referring to, Mavericks minority owner Frank Zaccanelli, Perot's righthand man, says, "No. I sure don't."

"That's not true," Goodwin hotly retorts. Then he relates a story about a day last April when a private helicopter touched down on a golf course outside Dallas and Perot and McDavid clambered out, ducking beneath the chopper's beating blades and hurrying across the wind-flattened grass for a summit meeting with Kidd.

Both sides agree it was at Donald Carter's insistence that Perot and McDavid visit Kidd before they completed majority purchase of the team. At this meeting, in the clubhouse at Stonebriar Country Club, it is Kidd's contention that the prospective owners made an extraordinary unsolicited gesture. Goodwin, who was not present, says, "They told Jason he'd be consulted on whatever new coach they hired. They told him he'd be informed of personnel changes in advance. They mentioned talking about a new contract for Jason. And they said, 'If you want Jimmy to go, he'll go.' "

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