Mavericks’ Kidd nearing final run

DALLAS – Time was running out in his career, Jason Kidd(notes) had run low on patience with the New Jersey Nets and he had hardly needed a great point guard’s innate ability to see the play unfolding before him.

Three years ago, a trade demand turned into something harsher: a phantom migraine to sit out a Nets game against the New York Knicks. Looking back on a genius career, Kidd probably wishes he hadn’t given everyone reason to believe he’d staged such a protest.

Jason Kidd is playing in his third NBA Finals. He lost the previous two with the Nets.
(Getty Images)

Looking back, he knows this too: He had to get to Dallas and give himself a chance to be a champion. He needed Dirk Nowitzki(notes). He needed Mark Cuban. The Nets stopped trying and he would’ve ended a broken-down, bitter old player trapped in the dysfunction of Bruce Ratner’s Nets.

“Listen, I saw what was coming at that time,” Kidd told Yahoo! Sports. “It became clear later, but I saw the direction everything was going there with ownership. They were taking it apart. It started with the Kenyon Martin(notes) trade and it kept going.”

Kidd’s had a magnificent second act to his career here, a renaissance borne from Nowitzki giving him a reason to grind so hard, so close to his 40th birthday. Kidd goes down as one of the great point guards in history, an unparalleled passer and leader, and Nowitzki gave him life again. Kidd will leave the NBA with something he never had most of his career: a jump shot and a true chance at a championship.

As a telltale Game 4 of these NBA Finals approaches on Tuesday, Kidd and the Mavericks find themselves down 2-1 to the Miami Heat. Nevertheless, Kidd has a shot here. He never did with the Nets in back-to-back NBA Finals in 2002 and ’03. Even now, it’s hard to appreciate the monumental accomplishment of Kidd transforming the Nets franchise. His will, his greatness, changed everything for New Jersey. He should’ve been the MVP in 2002, but those young kids around him had no shot to beat the Shaq-Kobe Los Angeles Lakers.

“They were super good,” Kidd said. “We weren’t quite ready for that team. We were just happy to be there. … But this is a different scenario.”

The Nets were stronger, smarter in ’04, but they were fortunate to push the San Antonio Spurs to six games before losing. These Mavericks are his best chance, his last chance, to win a title. He’s having a tough time chasing Dwyane Wade(notes) around the floor, and that’s understandable for the 38-year-old Kidd. As his foot speed’s diminished, he’s had to call upon so much more guile, so many more angles to work now.

Still, the Mavericks wouldn’t be here without him. Cuban took his hits for the Devin Harris(notes)-Kidd trade, but he made just one mistake: throwing in two first-round picks when one could’ve closed the deal. Of course, Cuban can buy a pick for $3 million on a moment’s notice, so nothing was lost for a win-now franchise.

Kidd’s career has had some wild ups and down, professionally and personally. His marriage had some nasty public moments in Phoenix and New Jersey, and he’s had to live with some embarrassing episodes. He needed a return to Dallas as badly as Dallas needed him. Time was running out, and Kidd needed to restore some of his legacy. He’s done it here, done it gracefully, done it to stand the test of time.

“It’s hard for me to say what I needed to do in that way with my career, but I just knew that I wanted to compete for a championship,” Kidd said. “I knew the opportunity that would be here, the chance to play with Dirk, to try and do this all now.”

Kidd didn’t have the perfect exit strategy to leave the Nets, but he’s always been willing to live with those consequences. His is a forever NBA career, a point guard life that stands shoulder to shoulder with the greatest the sport’s ever seen.

He needed a second wind, a second act and it’s come for him here. Yet there are no more chances, no more opportunities. This Game 4 gets Kidd and the Mavericks back into these Finals, or the chance to be a champion is likely gone forever. This is how he always saw things playing out in Dallas for him, how he saw the floor unfolding before his eyes. Last chance now, last call.

Adrian Wojnarowski is the NBA columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Adrian a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Jun 7, 2011