Mavs star not a Kidd anymore

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Associated Press
MIAMI ó After all the assists, steals, 3-pointers and triple-doubles, Jason Kidd has an easier path to his next entry in the NBA record book.
All he has to do is show up.
Kidd will become the oldest guard to start a game in an NBA finals when the Dallas Mavericks face the Miami Heat on Tuesday night.
While Dirk Nowitzki calls him a ěfossil,î and Shawn Marion described him as being ěalmost 50,î Kidd is a few months past 38. Thatís two years older than Ron Harper was when he started for the Lakers in 2000.
Of course, Kidd would prefer the title of oldest starting guard to win a championship. That also was set by Harper in 2000.
Winning it all is among the few things Kidd hasnít done in his 17-year career. He came close in 2002 and ë03, reaching the finals with the New Jersey Nets, but they were swept by the Lakers then fell to the Spurs.
ěI thought we were going to go on a roll in Jersey and make it three or four in a row,î Kidd said. ěBut, now weíre here. And hopefully we can find a way to win a championship.î
If so, Kidd likely will be the one leading the way.
He still starts most fast breaks and controls the halfcourt offense. Leave him open and heíll hit a 3-pointer; he made six in the first-round opener and buried another in the final minute of overtime to win Game 4 of the conference finals.
Defense is where heís really excelled this postseason. Late in close games, coach Rick Carlisle has assigned Kidd to cover Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Carlisle has said Kidd will be among those asked to slow LeBron James in this series.
So much for taking it easy on the old man.
The only concessions to age Kidd seems to have made are playing less minutes and tolerating the flecks of gray in his beard.
ěHeís playing at a high level, keeping up with a lot of these young guys,î said Miamiís Juwan Howard, who was drafted a few spots after Kidd in 1994-95 and is the only player older than Kidd in this series. ěNormally when youíre our age, people count you out. They say you donít have anything left in the tank. But as you get older in this league, you get wiser.î
Wisdom is a big part of Kiddís game.
After 1,267 regular-season games, and another 136 in the playoffs, heís pretty much seen it all. He knows what risks are worth taking and when to take them.
ěWeíre always a better basketball team when heís our facilitator on the court, and heís getting guys in different positions and leading the offense, and helping us in our flow game,î Carlisle said. ěWhen weíve got to call plays, Iíll call them once in a while, but heís great at that, too. The more he can do it, the better our team plays.î
Nowitzki sure likes having him around, and thatís reason enough to value Kidd.
Nowitzki pushed for Dallas to acquire Kidd at the trade deadline in 2008, even though it meant giving up young, improving Devin Harris. It wasnít clear who got the better of that deal as the Mavs won a single playoff series in Kiddís first three postseasons.
This run to the finals should end that debate.
ěIt just took a while to really come into his own here,î Nowitzki said.
Kidd is under contract for one more season. However, with a lockout looming, there might not be a 2011-12 season. Thus, thereís a chance this series could be it for his career.
He sure hopes thatís not the case ó not after the way the last two months have gone, and as big of a role as heís had in that success.
ěI would love to continue to keep playing if I feel the way I do now,î he said. ěI feel great. I know Iím not going to be playing 35 minutes a night. I still have a lot to give back to the game. … I love the competition no matter at what age. And Iím a big fan of the game. Seeing these young guys play at the level that they are, I just wish I was 22, 23 years old so I can handle the game the way they do.î
Perhaps. But none of those kids are doing what they do in the NBA finals, at least not this year.
The Associated Press
05/30/11 18:59