Dallas (35-18) at New Orleans (36-15)

Fair Currently: New Orleans, LA
Temp: 77° F
  • Game info: 8:00 pm EST Wed Feb 20, 2008
  • TV: CST
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Chris Paul and Jason Kidd were the point guards on the floor for their respective conferences down the stretch of Sunday’s All-Star game, each piling up assists in the hotly contested fourth quarter.

They’ll square off again in their first game after the break - this time as division rivals.

Kidd will play his first game in a Dallas Mavericks uniform in more than 11 years Wednesday when he leads them against Paul’s New Orleans Hornets - owners of the Western Conference’s best record.

Kidd was chosen second overall by the Mavericks (35-18) in the 1994 draft, and he averaged 13.7 points and 8.7 assists in 182 games in Dallas during his first two-and-a-half NBA seasons. He then spent parts of five seasons in Phoenix, but had his most successful years in New Jersey, leading the Nets to their only two appearances in the NBA finals in 2002 and ’03.

His seven-year tenure in New Jersey came to an end Tuesday, as the Nets and Mavericks completed a long-rumored, seemingly ever-changing deal to get Kidd to a title contender.

“That’s all I want, is to win a championship,” Kidd told the Mavericks’ official Web site Tuesday. “It’s not guaranteed, but you want to play for it. When you take the floor with the Mavericks, you’re on that path to win a championship.”

His last game during his first stint with Dallas was Dec. 17, 1996.

Kidd’s last appearance while with the Nets’ organization came in the All-Star game, when he recorded four of his team-high 10 assists in the final 12 minutes to help the East to a 134-128 victory. He also spent much of the fourth quarter trying to contain Paul, who had nine points and five of his game-high 14 assists in that period for the West.

“This being my first All-Star game, I wasn’t looking to try to win MVP or anything like that,” said Paul, second in the NBA with 10.9 assists per game. “I was trying to win.”

Winning is what Paul has helped New Orleans (36-15) do at a higher clip than anyone in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. An afterthought in the Southwest Division after finishing with a losing record a season ago, Paul has led the Hornets to wins in four straight games and 13 of their last 16.

He had 21 points and 10 assists - his 31st double-double - Wednesday as New Orleans took control in the fourth quarter en route to a 111-107 win at Milwaukee.

Paul has had help, as emerging players such as center Tyson Chandler have helped the Hornets become perhaps the biggest surprise team in the league this season.

“(I’m) really proud of my team for the first half, but it’s just that, the first half of the season,” said Chandler, whose 12.5 rebounds per game are among the top five in the league. “We just have to keep out focus and make sure we’re ready to go when the All-Star break is over.”

Paul is averaging 19.4 points in nine career games against the Mavericks, but New Orleans has won just one of those - a 112-108 overtime victory Dec. 1. Paul had 33 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds in that game, helping the Hornets to their lone win against Dallas since moving to New Orleans in 2002-03.

Dallas hasn’t played much like an apparent championship contender lately, losing three of four - all on the road - prior to the All-Star break. In all, it has lost five of its last six away from home by an average of 9.8 points.

Dirk Nowitzki had 36 points Thursday, but the Mavericks - playing without 20.3-ppg scorer Josh Howard - fell 109-97 at Phoenix.

“They just had another gear, and we just couldn’t get there,” coach Avery Johnson said.

Johnson is hoping Kidd can be the player that puts his team over the top. Howard, who has missed two games with a lower back contusion, and Nowitzki (22.8 ppg) take care of most of the scoring, and Kidd’s unselfish play - he averages 10.4 assists per game - could be a perfect fit.

“He’s a once in a lifetime type of guy to play with and coach,” Nets coach Lawrence Frank said.

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Wednesday, Feb 20