Saturday, February 16, 2008

All Star Break - And the Theater of the Absurd

Ok, the facts appear to be these:

- A trade sending Kidd to the Mavericks, where he started, was announced on Wednesday afternoon. Rod Thorn is praised for putting together such a great deal.
- Wednesday night he sits out of the Raptor's game, the last one before the break, as the Nets, stunned in shock, sleepwalk thru a blistering loss.
- During the game the announcers, having nothing better to do as the Nets fall behind by 30 in the third, speculate about the confusion such a trade presented - Would Kidd, now playing for a Western Conference team, suit up in the All Star game as an Eastern player?
- Wednesday night Jerry Stackhouse, part of the trade, says publicly, Don't worry - the Nets are gonna buy me out, I'll sit 30 days and I'll be right back here.
- On the postgame show Ian Eagle keeps qualifying all his valedictory comments about Jason with "and once again, the trade is not yet official". Finally, at the very end, mentions that Devean George is "perhaps" resisting being traded.
- Thursday early AM the NY Times reports on its website that in fact Devean George is exercising his "early Bird" rights, by which he can veto any trade. Seems not only would he be going from a contender to a moribund franchise, but after the season, when he becomes a free agent, he'd actually be able to ask LESS than if he were NOT traded.
- Friday the league office says Stackhouse can't be part of the deal because such deals as acquring a player only to buy him out and put him on waivers so the team that traded him could reacquire him are a violation of league rules.

So, here we sit - Jason Kidd is still a Net.

A disgruntled Net. A Net who has alienated and hurt several people in the locker room. A Net who was a leader who was obviously, in retrospect, not leading the team. A Net who, if the deal is not ultimately done, will have to go back to NJ and try to lead his team out of the morass that he himself largely created and try to make the playoffs.

To say nothing of how Stack and George are gonna be received by the Dallas fans...

I think Jason Kidd is the best all around BASKETBALL player (as opposed to shooter, hot dog, scorer, or streetball player) in the NBA today, bar none. As I have written, I always felt he "respected the game" so much that even when the team was letting him down he would play 100%, and his 100% was a team 100%. If JKidd willed to win, it was by willing his TEAM to win. He was not like Michael Jordan or Kobe or AI - when they will to win, they take the ball and they become a one man show. When Kidd wills to win, OTHER people score.

The media made a big deal about the pre-Knick game "migraine" event, speculating that he would never let something like a migraine stop him from playing. But I thought about 2004 when he had a chance to sign with San Antonio but instead stayed with the Nets.

Now everyone is blaming the surprisingly bad season the Nets are having on him. As you, dear readers of this blog, are aware, I have been blaming Lawrence Frank. I go to the games, I know about in-game tactics. I think there have been literally about 20 games he has mismanaged that they have lost, maybe more. Take half of them, put them in the win column, and you have a 33-19 team. Would Kidd have gotten his extension? Would he still be asking for a trade?

The NY Media do not like Kidd, and the rest of the country's media take their cues from NY. As I said in my "appreciation" blog, off the court he has not been a prince. Not the worst, not a Kobe, not even an MJ, but not a Tim Duncan or Akeem either.

Steve Politi in the Star Ledger wrote a retrospective of Kidd's tenure in NJ, and it was balancing his absolutely miraculous on court job with the Nets, a stellar example especially to young players, a true role model in that regard, with the migraine and overnight flip flopping about whether he wanted a trade or not. He also threw in his domestic ugliness with Joumana for good measure. As if MJ or Magic or Bird did not have worse ugliness in their personal lives.

He also mentioned, no, highlighted, how Kidd had "stabbed in the back" Byron Scott, who happens to be working miracles in New Orleans, to hear him tell it. We'll see what happens to New Orleans in the end, but it must be remembered that Scott single handedly gave away the Nets' best chance for a championship in 2003 by not playing Mutumbo consistently and making unbelievably bone headed substitution moves, particularly in Game Six. That was among the worst coached games I have ever seen. And then he follows that with coaching the same team to a 22-20 record the following year, including an embarrassing 40+ point loss to Memphis, a game during which he show no passion at all. He gets let go and the Nets go on a 14 game winning streak. And Kidd is to be blamed for "stabbing him in the back"??

It was clear that the Nets needed an impact big man, and Kidd, not Thorn or anyone else, got Zo to sign on. People forget that before he went down with his kidney deal the Nets looked like they had gotten over the hump. It was the injuries, particularly to RJ, after the 2005 season began (and Kidd was out as well with his knee microsurgery, after playing in the playoffs on essentially one leg) that got Alonzo moaning. Politi forgets that.

There. I've defended Kidd.

But now let's look at the last two seasons. The Nets, given their talent, vastly underperform. Kidd is being shopped and almost sent to the Lakers last year (if we are to believe the NY media) and the Mavs this year. Then, last year, after the trade deadline passes, the Nets play up to their talent and make the playoffs, blow by Toronto, and with a better in-game coach, could have eliminated Cleveland as well.

Suppose they pass the deadline again this year... And rally and make the playoffs again, and go past the first round again...

We all know last year JKidd was involved in a messy divorce with someone who acted, er, rather unstably. Point taken. Could that have been a factor?

Vince Carter played like a superstar in 2005 with the Nets, and 2006 as well, as the Nets won 49 games, and had to lose 3 out of 4 at the end, after they'd clinched and could gain nothing by winning 50 to keep it at 49. But in 2007 he played very bipolarly. Was it his ankle? Was it his attitude? What about HIS marital problems?

And speaking of bipolar, Frank starts out winning his first 14 games, then going .500 the rest of the way. In 2005 the Nets go 10 games under .500, then rally (after the VC acquisition and JKidd's return) to make the playoffs, two games over .500. Then in 2006 they go 49-33 but fall apart in the second round to an inferior Miami team (that ultimately wins the NBA, tho). Then in 2007, the Nets have to scramble at the end of the year to make .500 again. Curly, who had made such a difference in 2006, was out for most of the year. But before he went down the Nets were struggling to make .500. And when RJ went down, they had just gotten back to .500. Then came 3 last second losses after 4th quarter collapses in a row on a West Coast swing.

I think about this and ask myself, was all that Kidd?

I think Kidd is quite intelligent. I think he knows what any intelligent informed fan in the stands knows, and that's this - with Byron Scott as head coach, the Nets could never get over the top. And now, after several years to show his stuff, as it were, Lawrence Frank isn't much better.

So since he caught holy hell about "engineering" Scott's dismissal, would you think he'd try the same thing with Frank?

He realized last year that Frank doesn't have it. He also realizes that Bruce "I want my project built at all costs" Ratner doesn't care. His one reason to stay in this area, Joumana, is out of the picture. If you weren't born and raised there, would you want to stay in an area where you've stayed largely for her benefit when she is out of the picture?

Thorn has done about as much as one can do, and yet they are still tantalizingly close without the wherewithal to go all the way. And now Boston, a miserable morass in the Doc Rivers era, out Thorns Thorn and has way leap frogged the Nets, being serious contenders now.

He knows he's 34, 35 by the end of the season. He knows the Nets chances, given ownership, are slim to none. He knows only a contender in mid season needing that one piece would ever take him and his high salary. He's known this for two years now. So we have these mid-season follies.

If Kidd stays with the Nets, it will be weird. If he goes, it will be weird.

I'm a Nets fan. The facts are these - they can't rebuild as long as they are not in Brooklyn. They are now condemned to the Meadowlands for two more years, years of decreasing crowds and interest. How hard is Devon Harris gonna play? How good are his spirits gonna be, traded from a contender to the Washington Generals of the NBA?

Rod Thorn cannot be blamed for this. And neither can Jason Kidd.

Lawrence Frank is over his head and responsible, personally, for 10 or more Net losses this year alone. If the Nets were 33-19 it would be a very different story. Granted.

But the real problem is, as it has been since they entered the NBA, incredibly inept and stupid or craven ownership. If the Nets were playing in the new Prudential Arena in Newark we wouldn't be here.

Instead, for the last 3 years, and at least 2 more to come, we have limbo. We have, once again, the Siberia of the NBA.

Who wants to play in Siberia?

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