Deep down, Jason Kidd always regretted turning down the San Antonio Spurs. Somehow, it felt too easy for him. Everything had been stacked neatly for the Nets point guard – the max-out contract, the best power forward in history, the championship trophy. As much as that 2003 free agent recruitment inspired drama, Kidd never came close to running into Tim Duncan’s arms.
Part of it was Kidd’s wife, who wanted to stay in metropolitan New York for a television career.
Part was that Kidd didn’t like the appearance of leaving the NBA Finals loser for its champion.
And ultimately, there was an ego that understood he would forever be the face of the Nets franchise, the savior of the NBA’s most lost cause. They were his creation. Always, San Antonio belonged to Duncan, but Kidd had sold himself on going down in history as a Net. As it turned out, this was a noble idea that barely lasted a full season before Kidd privately told people he regretted ever passing on the Spurs offer.
He played brilliant basketball, but there was always an undercurrent of frustration with this coach, and that teammate, always a simmering fury that everyone was letting him down. It wasn’t long until Nets management understood that the price of Kidd’s genius would forever come with his changing whims and personal turmoil.
As history goes, it doesn't end well with Kidd.
So, this is Kidd’s chance to transform a checkered legacy. Finally, the Nets gave Kidd what he wanted. He goes to Dallas with an unmistakable mandate: Bring us the title and bring it now.
Several league executives have been impressed with how much Rod Thorn coaxed out of Cuban. Everything on the Nets president’s checklist – a good young player (Devin Harris), expiring contracts (Keith Van Horn and DeSagana Diop) and two first-round picks &hndash; was handed over. Most were surprised that a second first-round draft pick was needed to consummate the deal, but Thorn stood firm and delivered a clinic on trading a franchise player.
This tells you everything about how desperately Dallas wants to win a championship, and how intensely they believe that Kidd gives them the toughness, the leadership, to overtake the most imposing Western Conference in years. Yet still, for the second time, the Mavericks have entrusted themselves to Kidd and they pray that they won’t regret it again. Thirteen years ago, Kidd was too immature to honor the responsibility. He wasn’t alone with blame in Dallas, but he did his part to destroy the three J’s of Kidd, Jamal Mashburn and Jimmy Jackson. From there, there was a spectacular, but troubled stay in Phoenix, an acrimonious exit to Jersey. Just this season, Kidd called in sick to a game, sources said, to protest his inability to get a trade or a contract extension out of his bosses. It goes on and on with Kidd, but so does his ability to control basketball games, to transform teammates surrounding him.
Kidd now has a chance to truly reshape his legacy. Funny, but Kidd and the Lakers' Kobe Bryant returned to Team USA to be the saviors responsible for bringing back the Olympic gold medal. When they committed to Beijing for 2008, they did so at a time when they felt they were far from NBA championship contention. Suddenly, everything has changed. Between now and late August, everything they wanted is within reach.
Whatever happens, the opportunity won’t last long for Kidd. In his career, these times of change are traditionally when motivation moves him to an almost possessed state. He’ll play great for the Mavericks, but they didn’t trade the future for him to mess with the present. No more drama at nightclubs, no more of his personal life spilling into his work place. No more griping about his coaches, his teammates, about the commitment of his employers. Remember this: Without him, Dallas was closer to a championship than Kidd was without them. Dallas is going for it now, trusting that all these years later, he can finish the job with which it drafted him to do in 1994.
Three and a half years ago, Kidd wouldn’t join the defending champions, but now that title still belongs to those Spurs and it’s time for him to beat them. Pau Gasol and Shaquille O’Neal have gone West, but they don’t arrive with the pressure on the point guard. This is a legacy on the line.
For the first time, the burden won’t be on everyone surrounding Jason Kidd.
Once and for all, it’s on him.