Never bet against a cat or Jason Kidd when either is in midair. The feline will always land on its feet, and the Suns' point guard, who has a penchant for going aloft off the dribble, will nearly always make a prescient pass or an acrobatic layup (more likely the former). When in possession of the ball, thou shalt not leave thy feet without a clue—that's a commandment in any basketball bible. But Kidd brazenly, and successfully, defies it. "I tell my children, 'Don't ever let me see you do that,' " says Phoenix coach Danny Ainge, once an acrobatic passer himself. "But Jason's a stallion; you have to let him run free."
The 6'4" Kidd has been honing his aerial art since his elementary school days in Oakland. "There are some cases when a jump pass is needed," says Kidd. "If that option closes, I'm ready to shoot. I try to picture the play before it happens. I see myself driving from the wing. A second defender comes up to stop me, and I'm suddenly in midair. Now I can see the entire court better.
"There's Ced [Suns forward Cedric Ceballos] cutting to the hoop, and I hit him with a pass," Kidd continues, adding with a laugh, "though he probably misses the layup so that he can pad his offensive rebound totals."
It's hardly a coincidence that with Kidd playing the point, seven of his teammates average in double figures. "I'm not a shoot-first-ask-questions-later point guard," says Kidd, whose 9.0 assists per game through Sunday tied him for third in the NBA. "I like to pass. I'll take the blame for not attempting a layup if I see Steve [Nash] or Rex [Chapman] open for a three-pointer."
Unlike most hoop daydreamers, Kidd has developed the physical tools to make his visions come true. Though he is righthanded, Kidd says, "I practice so much [penetrating off the dribble] on my left hand that I can jump off either leg equally well. That makes me a threat from either side of the court." His flights of fancy can also be a threat to his health; against the Wizards last Sunday, Kidd twisted his right ankle attempting a takeoff. The injury did not appear to be serious.
Some opponents have tried to stymie the Suns' attack by ignoring their kinetic floor general. When the Mavericks visited Phoenix last Friday, Dallas coach Don Nelson opted to leave Kidd unguarded on the perimeter. Nellie's strategy: Encourage Kidd to shoot rather than pass. Although Kidd wound up firing an abysmal 7 for 22 from the field, he still had a triple double (20 points, 12 rebounds, 14 assists) in the Suns' 92-85 victory.
"Great game plan," Kidd said afterward. "Caught me off guard." But at least it didn't catch him flat-footed.