If Jason Kidd wants to make the case for legitimately sitting out a Nets game with a migraine headache, his story would be far more believable if he stopped using the mythology of contentment in New Jersey as a defense.
Why would I want to be traded, Kidd pleads, when I’m having my best season in years?
Why would I be upset with a 9-10 record, when that record’s an improvement over last season’s start?
Truth be told, the fact that Kidd, 34, is still playing at such an all-world level is more motivation to leave New Jersey to find a co-star for a championship chase. The Nets have severely underachieved this season, a sub-.500 record that includes far too many blowouts born of nights his teammates haven’t bothered to match his competitiveness.
Hours before Kidd ever told the Nets that he wasn’t well enough to play Wednesday night, it turns out that there were several people with knowledge that he had no plans to play against the Knicks. Publicly, Nets officials are defending Kidd, but privately they still believe, as one team official told a league confidant, “It was a protest of some kind.”
For over a year, Kidd has wanted out of New Jersey. That isn’t even debatable. He was deeply disappointed when the proposed February deal to the Lakers never happened. Yes, he wants a contract extension on his deal that expires in two years. He wanted $13 million for the 2010-11 season, but a source close to Nets management says they countered with $10 million. By the 2010-'11 season, Kidd could be gone and the Nets should be out of Jersey and moved into their new palace in Brooklyn.
For now, the Nets are mostly interested in clearing out salary-cap space for that season, holding on to hope that part-owner Jay-Z’s relationship with LeBron James could play a part in delivering the sport’s ultimate free-agent prize. Nets president Rod Thorn was tempted to blow up this team a year ago, but a late-season run into the playoffs and a first-round victory over Atlantic Division champion Toronto convinced him to make one more run.
Thorn thought the Nets would have forward Nenad Krstic back in the rotation, but his recovery from an ACL injury has been a nightmare. After returning for the start of the season, Krstic was ineffective and left the active roster to return to rehabbing the knee. The Nets gave Vince Carter his new $60 million extension and he’s never looked so unimpressive and uninspired. Kidd knows there’s no title run in his Nets future. If that’s what he truly wanted, he would’ve taken a few million dollars less and signed with San Antonio in 2003.
Since then, Thorn and ownership has granted Kidd everything he’s wanted.
His estranged wife, Joumana, wanted the run of the franchise?
She had it.
Kidd wanted Alonzo Mourning and Rodney Rogers?
The Nets signed them.
He wanted Bryon Scott gone?
The Nets fired him.
As they’ve discovered, Kidd can be a tough man to please. For now, Thorn isn’t soliciting offers for Kidd, but that’s destined to change. The Mavericks are struggling and could use Kidd’s toughness and leadership. Kidd would love to play with James, but New Jersey wants some semblance of star power in return and the Cavaliers don’t possess it. And why would the Lakers be inclined to trade Andrew Bynum with the teeny-bop center showing progress and Kidd a year older?
Whatever management thinks of Kidd’s motives on Wednesday, it sure isn’t interested in picking a public war with him. Kidd says he had a migraine? If officials had ample reason to believe otherwise, the organization still publicly supported him.
The Nets have no choice because they understand the reality with Jason Kidd. When he wants, he can give those headaches far worse than he ever gets them.
1. The success of Mike D’Antoni’s fast and furious style with the Phoenix Suns has spawned so much intrigue and interest for coaches throughout basketball. Because D’Antoni is such an agreeable and open guy, he has always been willing to let others coaches come spend time and study his program.
For the University of Rhode Island’s Jim Baron, who made his reputation on tough defense and rebounding, his time watching Suns training camp at the University of Arizona in Tucson and studying tape with D'Antoni turned out to be something of an epiphany for him. He has transformed the Rams' style over the past two seasons into a faster pace, and did what so many college coaches fear doing: Ceded control to his players and stopped trying to control every movement on the floor.
The result? After blowing out rival Providence, the Rams are 9-1 to start the season as they travel to Syracuse for a telling Saturday night game at the Carrier Dome.
“The Suns are the epitome of running basketball,” Baron said. “I just learned so much from how they use their personnel, how they blend the frontline and the guards, space the floor, use the dribble.”
Most coaches understand that D’Antoni’s system is made far more effective with Steve Nash playing point and Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and a superb cast of running mates alongside. For Baron, his years as Panama’s national coach exposed him to the changing game around the world and evolving his own style at URI has been a natural extension of those experiences.
“I was watching film with Mike out there, and asked him how you get your players to buy into it all the time,” Baron said. “He told me, ‘This is the culture.’ You have to be committed to it all the time.”
2. Eventually, Pat Riley and Shaquille O’Neal were destined for a showdown. Once Riley rewarded Shaq with a five-year, $100 million contract three years ago, he shifted his center’s loyalty from deposed coach Stan Van Gundy to himself. Van Gundy lost his leverage in the locker room because of a boss who wanted his old coaching job back, resigned and watched them all win a title without him.
Maybe that 2005 championship was worth it all to Riley, but now he’s stuck with a fading superstar that no longer responds to the coach’s motivational calls. Shaq will clog Miami’s cap at $20 million a season through 2010 and leave franchise star Dwyane Wade to figure out how to win with the cast of characters surrounding him. If Shaq is mailing it in as a star, the additions of Smush Parker, Ricky Davis, Penny Hardaway and Mark Blount suggested that Riley is doing the same as the top executive.
At 4-14, the Heat are on a death march through the Western Conference this week that threatens to leave their season in shambles before they return to Miami for Thursday’s game with Washington.
3. If the timing of 76ers president Billy King’s firing was a surprise, the act itself was inevitable.
Ed Stefanski was an inspired choice to replace him, a son of Philadelphia basketball who had a meteoric rise in the Nets organization under Thorn. He was responsible for the drafting of Richard Jefferson and Krstic and even plucked Stephen Jackson out of an overseas basketball job for his first break in the NBA.
For the 76ers, you can be assured this guarantees that “consultant” Larry Brown will never coach this team. King owed Brown for his break with the 76ers and let him come back a year ago, but Stefanski will have no use for Brown meddling in his operation. Thorn will miss Stefanski as his bird-dog scout, and one source close to the Nets top executive expects him to hire ex-Sonics GM Rick Sund as the team’s next GM.
4. For 76ers fans desperate to relive the glory days, here’s some relief: Gordon Jones, a columnist with the Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call, has written a fantastic book with Pat Williams on the 1982-83 NBA champion Sixers’ team, called, Pat Williams’ Tales from the Philadelphia 76ers. Those 76ers of Moses Malone – yes, the “Fo…Fo…Fo” title run – and Dr. J are easily among the most underrated champions in league history.
Lost amid the hysteria over the burgeoning Celtics-Lakers dynasties in that decade, the Sixers ’83 greatness deserves its due. Jones and Williams deliver it here.
5. One Eastern Conference scout has a surprising perspective on the two best rookie forwards in the NBA. Actually, he likes what he sees out of Milwaukee’s Yi Jianlian more than Seattle’s Kevin Durant.
“Durant’s shot selection and free reign worries me,” the scout said. “He is too loose and not playing team ball. I’m afraid he’s laying a poor foundation for when he’s on a better team. As for Yi, I just love his game. So fundamentally sound with three-point range. He can drive left or right on you, pass and has such size and athleticism. He even attacks the glass. I don’t think you can pigeon hole him as just a perimeter guy, a shooter.”
An Eastern Conference scout on the job Eddie Jordan has done with the Wizards since Gilbert Arenas was lost to knee surgery. “I think he has been fantastic, changing defenses, juggling lineups and really getting those guys to play,” the scout said. “I know that staff was worried it was going to get fired at 0-5, but I think they’ve done a tremendous job maximizing what they have there.”