“For all your vaunted strength, you are but a fading shadow of my cosmic all!” – Galactus, Devourer of Worlds
Last summer, Jason Kidd turned down the Mavs’ generous offer of three years and $9 million. Instead, he took the Knicks’ offer of three years and $9 million. On one level, the defection was a slap in the face to the organization that drafted him, the one that brought him back when some thought he was “too old” to be an elite player, and the one where he won his championship. On another level, Kidd’s frustration is understandable. He was disappointed with a front office that “blew up” the championship team (which I don’t think was entirely within their control, but whatever), and he wanted the opportunity to come off the bench for a highly talented point guard. The Mavs couldn’t get Kidd’s golf buddy Deron Williams, and Dallas just felt a little less like home.
While many were surprised to see Kidd leave, those keeping a close watch on precious cap space may have thought $9 million seemed a little too generous for a player who averaged 6.2 points and 5.5 assists in the previous season and would turn 40 this year. Clearly, it was an offer to cement Kidd’s legacy as a Maverick, possibly transitioning him to an assistant coaching position. But for a second time in Mavs’ history, Jason Kidd left Dallas on bad terms.
In hindsight, I wonder if $9 million was too low of an offer. The Knicks are in second place in the Eastern Conference. The Mavs are tied with Sacramento for the third worst record in the West. The disparity between the two teams cannot only be attributed to Jason Kidd, but his presence and veteran leadership cannot be ignored either. A semblance of continuity from 2011 might be worth something.
When you consider how this might affect Nowitzki’s performance, that $9 million may seem like a bargain. Consider these words from NBA’s Jeff Caplan:
In 2008, Nowitzki pleaded with owner Mark Cuban to trade penetrating, low-assist point guard Devin Harris for savvy veteran Jason Kidd, believing the cerebral assist man would elevate the offense and create opportunities for Nowitzki that didn’t require the constant burden of grinding, one-on-one isolation work.
With a return to a Harris-type point in Collison, Nowitzki is faced with a clear adjustment in styles and increasingly limited time to make it work.
This is a sobering thought. Maybe this is why Mark Cuban was so angry about Kidd leaving. Cuban says his “feeling were hurt” because he thought they had developed a good relationship, and that Kidd was committed to the team, but I imagine Mark Cuban also recognized the veteran-sized hole Kidd left and how that might impact Nowitzki. In contrast, Jason Terry was always upfront about shopping his talents around. And maybe Cuban realized that Terry’s role would be easier to replace. I’ve said it before, but I’d rather have a young O.J. Mayo than an old Jason Terry. Also, in Boston, Terry is having his worst season since his rookie year. It may have been a good time to part ways.
However, a Kidd-less Mavs could mean a diminished Nowitzki.
Nowitzki says as much here: “Execution down the stretch has been one of our problems. The last couple years, we knew each other so well and we had a point guard in Jason Kidd who was one of the smartest out there. It’s going to take a little more time together to figure it out.”
Rick Carlisle appears to be the one most affected by the loss of Jason Kidd. He’s taking his grief out on Darren Collison. Collison has been repeatedly benched and un-benched, then benched again. Throughout the season, Carlisle has made cryptic statements to the press about failure followed by pronouncements of boundless enthusiasm for his team. Yesterday, he nicknamed himself “the Colonel.” In other words, Carlisle sounds like a man on the verge of a bipolar nervous breakdown. I imagine he’s a few overtime losses away from ditching his suit and simply wearing a snuggy while seated courtside, ranting and mumbling to players no longer on the roster.
No other proof is needed for the frustration in the back court than to note the revolving door of misfits at the guard spots: Delonte West, Derek Fischer, Dominique Jones, Rodrigue Beaubois, Jared Cunningham, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and they’re now calling up 37-year-old Mike James from the D league. It’s enough to drive anyone a little insane.
Last night against Utah (another madding near miss), Carlisle decided to go with Beaubois at the point during those crucial last minutes. Carlisle said he liked Beaubois’ “engineering tonight.”
His engineering? I don’t even know what that means. Carlisle needs someone reliable.
The trade deadline is approaching. Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson must do something to bring back what was lost with Jason Kidd–for Nowitzki and for Carlisle, for their mental health. Do you think the Knicks might consider a trade? Maybe we can get Jason Kidd a third time?
David Hopkins is a freelance writer — a regular contributor to D Magazine and Smart Pop Books. David and his wife jokingly pretend that Rick Carlisle lives underneath the bleachers at American Airline Center. Follow David on Twitter at @davidhopkins.