Mavericks Need To Get Kidd
Sitting on my couch, watching the Dallas Mavericks' 122-109 loss to the Denver Nuggets on TNT last night, I realized two things.
One, the Mavericks won't win a championship as currently constructed. And two, Dallas really, really needs to get Jason Kidd.
Kidd has not asked for a trade (yet). He's not officially available (yet). But Kidd is not happy in New Jersey. He's been dropping sly hints for the past two weeks, and Kidd would prefer to be elsewhere - whether or not he was "on strike" or really had a debilitating migraine headache when he was a no-show for a loss against the New York Knicks on Wednesday.
That had to be some headache. This is a guy who plays through pain in his knee, his back, wherever. He's a competitor. He loves to be on the floor. But he hates putting up triple-doubles, and giving his heart and soul to a team that seems content with getting eliminated in the first round or second round every year.
When the Nets traded Kenyon Martin to Denver in the summer of 2004 - one year after Kidd spurned the San Antonio Spurs to sign a six-year, $103 million extension to stay - he really began to question the direction of the franchise. He tried to force a trade back then and that didn't work out too well.
The Nets tried to appease Kidd by trading for Carter a few months later, but almost three years with Vince has Kidd incensed and the only resolution that makes sense (okay, I'll quit it with the rhyme) is to move him.
There has been a lot of talk about Kidd teaming up with LeBron James in Cleveland, after the two formed a friendship last summer in Las Vegas with Team USA. Or with Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles, after the Lakers almost acquired Kidd at the trade deadline before deciding against using Andrew Bynum in the deal.
The Cavaliers and Lakers can probably present more attractive packages of talent, draft picks and expiring contracts, but to me, Dallas puts Kidd in contention to win a championship quicker.
And, the Mavericks need Kidd the most.
Losing at home to the Nuggets is by no means grounds to panic, but when it comes in conjunction with a loss to the San Antonio Spurs the night before when Tim Duncan is wearing dress code approved clothing, it is a signal to me that the Mavericks have to shake up the team.
Twenty games into the season, Dallas is 12-8 and doesn't appear to be a team that is merely scaling back the importance of the regular season to be ready for the playoffs. In losing six of their past nine games, the Mavericks look like a team stuck in a malaise following back-to-back meltdowns in the playoffs.
Coming off that NBA Finals collapse in 2006, it seemed logical for the Mavericks to keep most of their core pieces intact. After all, they had a 2 Â¾ games to none lead before they found almost every which way to lose - taking out their frustrations on the officials and exercise bikes - as Dwyane Wade completely demoralized them.
But after winning 67 games then losing to the Golden State Warriors in the first round last season, Dallas needed to do more than just bring in Brandon Bass, Eddie Jones and Trenton Hassell.
A mental makeover was in order.
Dirk Nowitzki's vacation to the South Pacific after that last playoff ouster was written about but not played up nearly enough. The league's reigning MVP didn't shave, let his hair grow out hippie-style (i.e. longer than it already is) and spent some nights camping out in his car in the Australian outback and it didn't strike anybody as odd? He really took that loss hard - and doesn't seem to have recovered.
After the Warriors knocked off the Mavericks, I wrote that they needed to pair a pit bull with Nowitzki in order to be a championship team. I just feel that Nowitzki is a great player, just not good enough to carry a team to a title by himself. That isn't a criticism. Only a handful of players - if that - can take a team all the way to the top.
Nowitzki is a reluctant leader. Wade and even Dallas Coach Avery Johnson have openly questioned his leadership abilities. It's not in Nowitzki's nature to be overly vocal or to inspire his teammates in any way other than that sweet jump shot.
But right now that jumper is not so sweet - which was apparent in the loss against the Spurs when Nowitzki missed a wide-open, point blank three-pointer at the buzzer of the 97-95 loss (Even more telling, the play reportedly was called for Josh Howard. Huh? Dirk doesn't get the last shot drawn up for him?).
Nowitzki had a great game against Denver (32 points, 12 rebounds), but his production had minimal impact on the outcome. He is shooting just 30.6 percent from beyond the three-point line this season and is averaging 21.4 points per game - his worst scoring average since his second season in the league.
I know Dirk put together three of his best seasons after his buddy Steve Nash left Dallas for Phoenix, but Nowitzki initially gained the confidence to carry the Mavericks with Nash pushing him. He still needs somebody in his ear to get him going. Johnson has tried his best to help Dirk become a better player - and it has worked for the most part - but the Mavericks need someone on the floor to motivate him.
Kidd is the ultimate motivator. You can look at his immediate impact on New Jersey, where he took that woebegone franchise to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances; how he completely brought a different attitude to Team USA last summer; and how he makes every player around him better. Kidd should've received a percentage of the contracts Martin, Richard Jefferson, Brian Scalabrine and Mikki Moore have signed in recent years. They got bigger pay days simply by sharing the floor with the man.
Dallas needs a player with that "I'm-not-going-to-lose" attitude. Kidd has that attitude, but the past few years in New Jersey, he's felt like the only one. Some might look at the situation in Dallas and ask, "Isn't Dirk just a 7-foot version of Vince Carter, a regular season superstar who hides out in the playoffs?"
Not quite. Unlike Vince, Dirk can say that he has led a team to the conference finals twice and to the NBA Finals. He just can't get over the hump. Kidd can get him over that hump.
Kidd left Dallas on the day after Christmas in 1996, asking to be traded after he failed to mesh with Jamal Mashburn and Jim Jackson (Don't you wish you knew what really went down with them and Toni Braxton?). If he gets a reunion with the Mavericks at age 34, the second ending might be better.
The problem? I cannot think of any way the Mavericks can make it happen. I was developing a headache, spending a good 45 minutes on the ESPN.com trade machine trying to come up with something that worked.
You figure that any deal would start with Devin Harris, who would give the Nets a point guard for the future. The dollars don't add up, though, since Kidd is due over $41 million through next season and the Mavericks don't have the other pieces on their roster to get it done without adding a third or fourth team. I can't imagine New Jersey would want to touch Erick Dampier with James Gandolfini's fingers.
But Mark Cuban is a smart man. It's been a while since he made a real bold move with that team. He has to exhaust every measure to get it done - or this postseason might end in similarly disappointing fashion as the previous two for his franchise.
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