EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—His left knee has been aching for more than a month, his back is reportedly acting up and his shooting touch has been mostly AWOL.
Jason Kidd, the point guard who turned the Nets from an also-ran into a perennial NBA contender, is a mess as New Jersey prepares for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Detroit Pistons on Thursday night in Michigan.
“Is he 100 percent? I don’t think so,” Nets forward Richard Jefferson said of the Kidd on Tuesday. “Does that matter? No!”
“This is not about being 100 percent,” Jefferson said. “This is about finding a way.”
The New York Post reported that Kidd wore heating pads on his sore back after the triple-overtime Game 5. Kidd denied his back was bothering him.
Regardless, the Nets believe Kidd is going to find a way to lead them to their third straight conference championship, and then that first NBA title.
The image is one of Superman arriving just in the nick of time.
It’s a picture downplayed by Kidd.
“I don’t have to carry the load,” said Kidd, whose 11.8 scoring average in the series is fourth-best on the team behind Jefferson (21.7), Martin (16.7) and Kerry Kittles (13.8).
“We’ve always been a team effort,” said Kidd, whose average is five points below his regular-season standard. “I’ve never had to carry the whole load. These guys have always stepped up in some way. Come Thursday night everyone is going to have to pitch in and lend a hand if we want to have any chance of winning the game.”
Kidd has not looked as effective as usual in this year’s postseason.
The box score says it all.
In past playoffs, Kidd could almost always be counted on for at least a double-double each game, if not a triple-double in points, assists and rebounds.
He has had only one triple-double in this series, in which he has averaged 9.3 assists and 7.3 rebounds. He’s shooting 31.3 percent, making 25 of 80 shots.
Hamilton has averaged a team-best 20.5 points, using his speed to keep Kidd at a distance.
Kidd, who has played more than 100 minutes in the last two games, said his health is not an issue.
Nets coach Lawrence Frank said that having three days off will help Kidd, who has averaged 44.7 minutes.
“He’s borderline Superman, but he’s not Superman,” Frank said. “But I think he has done a phenomenal job, both offensively and defensively.”
Frank said Kidd has sacrificed his own game to help Jefferson, Martin and Kittles.
“My job is to go out and execute the plan,” Kidd said. “I’m not looking at it as Game 7. It’s a basketball game that is going to be played at a high level. Guys are going to be jacked up. You have to understand to be patient and to pick your spots to do things.”
The Pistons were careful discussing Kidd’s health and play.
“We certainly aren’t going into the game expecting to go right after Jason Kidd or anyone else,” Billups said after practice Tuesday. “He’s a good defender, and if he was hurting, I didn’t see it.”
Detroit coach Larry Brown said the reason the Pistons guards are scoring so much is that they are getting most of the shots.
“I don’t believe at all that Jason is hurting them,” Brown said.
With the season on the line, Kidd got some good advice from his son, T.J.
“He said: ‘Just have fun,’ “ the elder Kidd said. “If he doesn’t look at it as Game 7, I’m not going to look at it as Game 7.”