Jason Kidd woke Thursday morning in his sprawling Water Mill mansion on Long Island with the understanding that his NBA career would likely see its final days with the Dallas Mavericks.
After a round of golf, which tends to engender the spirits of competitiveness and exuberance, Kidd apparently wasn’t ready to surrender his career, even at the age of 39, with a team that has been quickly dismantled since it won the NBA title just over 12 months ago.
“I just didn’t feel right,” Kidd told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Thursday.
By remaining in Dallas, Kidd faced the strong possibility that he would have to carry the bulk of the load, along with Dirk Nowitzki, for a team that lost out on landing free agent Deron Williams and decided not to make a play for Goran Dragic. A team that let Tyson Chandler go — and become the NBA Defensive Player of the Year — had just passed on re-signing former Sixth Man of the YearJason Terry.
And, right now, Kidd shared the point-guard spot with Roddy Beaubois, a lightning-quick scorer, but hardly a facilitator. In the draft, the Mavs landed a shooting guard to perhaps replace Terry (and eventually slide into aging Vince Carter’s spot) in Jared Cunningham with the 24th overall pick, but other than that, the Mavericks are wearing the look of a team that will continue a downspiral come 2012-13 season.
Kidd talked to Williams, a good friend and golfing buddy, about teaming up in Williams’ hometown, but the Nets had $100 million reasons for him to be in Brooklyn. Kidd would have followed him there, but the rebuilding Nets, who added Joe Johnson‘s massive contract, only had a veteran’s minimum to offer. Kidd knows twilight has officially hit his career, but he also knows his market value is more than $1.4 million.
He was resigned to re-sign with the Mavericks and throw a few more behind-the-back passes to Dirk and VC before crossovering on off into the sunset … until the Knicks suddenly found themselves in a desperate situation. Most of the basketball world expected Steve Nash to land in New York by the time Macy’s fired off the last red-glaring rocket over the East River on Wednesday night, but with the suddenness of a San Diego fireworks show, Nash was a Laker. And the Knicks were back in play.
“I talked to my wife about it and my agent,” Kidd told the Star-Telegram. “And we all kind of agreed that if you feel like you want to go to New York and try to help them, then you should. So that’s the decision we made.”
It’s a move that fits Kidd best: primarily a backup point guard who will still see major minutes, but won’t have to carry the load every night. More importantly for the Knicks, Kidd provides insurance, protection and an ideal mentor for 23-year-old Jeremy Lin.
After the season, coach Mike Woodson was asked if he would look to hire an offensive-minded assistant coach to help create a system to get the most out of Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. In a way, the Knicks just did that by bringing in Kidd, who will serve as a coach on the floor that will command the respect of Melo (they were Redeem Teamers) and Amar’e. As for Chandler? The two won a ring together in Dallas, so that’s a bond that lasts forever.
No, the Knicks aren’t getting the superstar that Kidd was when he was torturing them with the Nets throughout the 2000s. But what they are getting is a respected, experienced veteran who brings a championship pedigree to the locker room, another voice of reason and leadership on the court and, perhaps most importantly, an ideal tutor to ensure the franchise gets the most out of this investment in Lin.
With Nash, Lin was likely going to move to the bench and, perhaps, have to develop a combo role that might have stunted his growth. With Kidd providing backup (and occasionally playing next to Lin as an off-guard), the ball remains in Lin’s hands and his development as a point guard can continue.
For Kidd, this does not appear to be a financially-motivated move (we don’t know the details of the contract yet, but if the third year is guaranteed, that says a lot). In the past, such as in 2008, we saw him flirt with the Knicks as a free agent enough to suggest he was using New York for leverage. This time around, staying in Dallas seemed to be the easiest move.
But he chose the Knicks because, as he said, it felt right. Four years too late? Maybe. But perhaps for Lin, it’s right on time.
THE MONEY GAME
The Knicks are reportedly still working on how they will acquire Kidd. They could use the $3.09 million Mid-Level Exception to sign him or they could work out a sign-and-trade with the Mavericks to preserve that MLE for another free agent. In this scenario, the Knicks could offer the non-guaranteed contracts of Dan Gadzuric ($1.4 million) and Jerome Jordan ($762,000), which could translate to a $3 million contract for Kidd (CBA allows you to take back 150 percent of salary that you send out).
But what’s in it for the Mavs? The Knicks may have to include a future second-round draft pick just to make it worthwhile.
Preserving the MLE may be important for the Knicks if they are targeting a free agent such asMarcus Camby, who would fill in perfectly as a backup center to Chandler and make the Knicks frontline even more defensively-strong. Re-sign Jared Jeffries to play forward and perhaps bring back Shawne Williams (veterans minimum) as well and you really have a solid core of defenders on the frontline.
However, the above mentioned assets could be used, along with, say, Toney Douglas, to land another free agent for the backcourt, like O.J. Mayo. With Iman Shumpert out, the Knicks will need some insurance at the shooting guard spot behind J.R. Smith and Mayo might be a nice fit. This one, however, might be a longshot.
J.R. ON DECK?
The Knicks hope to get J.R. Smith back in the fold at the $2.8 million salary they are permitted to re-sign him at according to the CBA. But after seeing Landry Fields get a three-year, $20 million deal from the Raptors, does Smith think he can do better on the open market?
The Knicks have shown loyalty to Smith by signing his younger brother, Chris, to the summer league team. With no interest in matching Toronto’s offer sheet to Fields and Shumpert out with the injury, Smith by default becomes their starting shooting guard.
NO DWIGHT IN SIGHT?
With the Dwight Howard saga unfolding with daily drama and rumors, many of you have asked why the Knicks aren’t trying to jump into the fray. The suggestions from fans always include Chandler and Stoudemire as pieces to send to Orlando, but its easy for a fan to randomly toss names of star players into a trade scenario. It’s not so easy when you are running a front office.
What you have to consider is that if Howard had the Knicks as a preferred destination, his agent, Dan Fegan, would make the effort to express this to the Knicks. Fegan, one of the most aggressive agents in the game, then would attempt to entertain the Magic to see if there was interest in potential pieces the Knicks could offer. Yes, the agent would act as the mediator to spark a conversation. If you recall the Chandler signing, his agent, Jeff Schwartz, is the one who approached the Knicks about the scenario and got the ball rolling.
Bottom line, without any assurances, you don’t openly discuss with another team a willingness to trade two important players on your roster. Why? It can lead to unnecessary concerns for those players if a deal does not come to fruition (see: Pau Gasol).
• Yes, the NBA champions traditionally open the NBA season with their banner-raising ceremony, but I proposed via Twitter the other day that, with so much excitement and anticipation built up in the two largest markets, New York and Los Angeles, the league should consider an opening night double-header of Knicks-Nets and Lakers-Clippers. Let the Heat raise their banner the next night.
• Very interesting name suddenly appeared on the free-agent ticker: Elton Brand. The 76ers reportedly will place him on amnesty waivers. If he clears amnesty waivers — which most people doubt — would the Peekskill, N.Y. native consider playing for the Knicks at the veteran’s minimum? Brand is still a workhorse who will rebound and defend the post. Something to watch.
• Don’t forget, NBA Summer League coverage begins on MSG July 14 live from Las Vegas. We will carry all six Knicks games and have extensive coverage of not just the games, but free agency as well. Hey, have you seen the promo that Spero Dedes and I shot recently?