- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Unthinkable. The man hits his wife, and the man, his wife and his new team are happier than they've been in years. She didn't believe it. Joumana was like anyone else who hears a celebrity apologizing for terrible deeds. She didn't trust him. Here was Jason, calling from the Paradise Valley police station on Jan. 18, 2001, and her first impulse was to go on the attack: Screw you, I did what I had to do, I know you hate me, that's life. But Jason said, "Hold on, slow down, I'm sorry." Then he told Joumana that she was right to call the cops, that he was going to change. Helicopters were hovering over the house; his name would soon be bad news. She was sure this was spin control, someone coaching Jason on what to say. "Who's sitting there with you?" she demanded. "What'd they do in the cop car, drug you?"
She'd seen this act before. They'd been in counseling, off and on, because Kidd's response to any kind of argument was to shut down, go quiet, let Joumana's persistent complaints sink in without response. She would ask him about practice, and he would grunt, turn on the TV and drift away. "He wasn't consistent," Joumana says. "He'd put his mind to it and be this awesome husband, and then all of a sudden he'd be the other extreme. The next day he'd be Awesome Husband again: 'You're right. I'm sorry. You're the priority.' It was a roller coaster where the good times made up for the bad because they were so good. I wanted to think, That's the guy. And this other guy? We can fix it."
It didn't help matters that Kidd is, with everyone, the ultimate point guard. "He tries to please so many people that eventually he starts drowning—and doesn't know how to deal with it," says Anne Kidd. Before Jason and Joumana got someone to clean their house, in December, he would drop his dirty clothes all over. Now whenever the housekeeper is due, he starts picking up.
"He doesn't want her to think he's a slob," Joumana says. "He tends to take for granted those closest to him. Say, Sidles would poo on him and make him feel crappy. Instead of taking it out on Skiles, he'd come home and take it out on me."
Kidd says he's sure Phoenix traded him not because of his arrest or because the Suns were tired of first-round playoff exits, but because the Phoenix coach "was intimidated by me. The team, in an overall sense, didn't respect him. They respected a player more than they respected a coach, and so there was a threat of, 'If you don't get Jason to believe in it, then the team won't believe in it.' I think he felt threatened."
"I have no idea what that means," Skiles says. Both he and Bryan Colangelo say that in the four years Skiles and Kidd overlapped in Phoenix, they never heard a word of this from Kidd. "It's disappointing," Skiles continues. "I felt we had a good relationship. I was really fond of coaching him, and people in the organization bent over backward to embrace Jason." No, Skiles and Colangelo say, what persuaded them to unload Kidd for Marbury was Marbury's youth (he's four years younger than Kidd) and the fact that the Suns weren't much fun to watch anymore.
Whatever the reason, the ugly spousal-abuse publicity made Kidd easier to cut loose. After Joumana stopped hiding in the bathroom that night, she dialed 911, thought better of it and hung up. The dispatcher called back, and Jason answered. Joumana expected him to lie and say the call had been a mistake, but he handed her the phone and sat down. For a second she thought he was daring her to turn him in; for a second she hesitated. His face showed no defiance. Maybe if T.J. hadn't seen him hit her...but T.J. copies everything Jason does. He wants to sit how Jason sits. He cries only when someone takes him away from Jason.
Joumana told the 911 operator, in a tape that was quickly made public, "There's just a bad history here. I told him this would be the last time, and he popped me right in the mouth." Asked later if she needed medical attention, Joumana said, "Don't worry about me. This is minor compared to what I usually go through."
Jason and Joumana insist that the assault was an isolated event. He says he's never asked her why she said what she did in the 911 call, but both claim it was her way of upping the ante in their showdown—"her call card to see if I would play or walk," Jason says.
Joumana prides herself on her frankness, and only when asked about the 911 call is she less than convincing. "That was not intended as in, 'This is nothing compared to fights we've been in in the past,' " she says. "That was not intended at all. This was a sole incident. Yes, right. Yes."