Sunday, June 29, 2014

Jason Kidd's Great Escapes

I first noticed Jason Kidd's political ability in 2007, when he maneuvered Avery Johnson under the bus and re-arranged the balance of power in the franchise in the span of one off-season. He was a consummate winner in the NBA - he made the playoffs his last 16 seasons in the league - not just because he was an all-time great PG but because he was an extremely savvy operator. The guy ALWAYS lands on his feet.

1997 - After establishing himself as an All-Star PG, he sours on the other young players in Dallas and gets traded to a Suns team on the rise. Over the next four seasons, he was the key player on 50-win Suns teams while the Mavs bottomed out under Don Nelson.

2001 - With Penny Hardaway breaking down, Kidd ends up trading places with Stephon Marbury in New Jersey, just in time to catch the rise of Kenyon Martin and Richard Jefferson and the collapse of the rest of the Eastern Conference. While the Suns eventually start rebuilding around a 19-year old Amare Stoudemire, Kidd is playing in multiple NBA Finals.

2007 - It was once again for the league's resident hobo genius to pack his bags, as the Nets were aging and didn't have the talent to compete with the Big Three Boston Celtics and the new wave of elite teams in the East. While the Nets plunged to a 12-win season in 2010, Kidd was safely ensconced on a veteran Mavs team with another Hall of Fame talent and an owner willing to write any checks to compete for a title.

2012 - A year after the Mavs improbable run to a championship, Kidd realized ownership miscalculated when they let Tyson Chandler walk and the team was no longer in position to contend in the West. So he weaseled his way out of a contract offer and signed with the Knicks, which had Chandler and Carmelo and could take advantage of the weaker East.

2013 - After one final run in New York - a 54-win season and a second round finish that looks like it will be the high-water point of the Melo era - Kidd got out while the getting was good, cashing in on his reputation as a veteran leader to snag a head coaching job with a Nets team that featured a ton of veteran talent and was ready to win right away.

The 2012 version of the Mavs and the 2013 version of the Knicks both missed the playoffs and I don't think that's a coincidence. It's not that Kidd was the difference between winning and losing at his advanced age but that he's always had an uncanny ability to protect himself and leave right before the party is over. If there's one pattern to his career it's that - Jason Kidd is not the guy whose going to be left holding the bag and cleaning up the mess.

That's something to keep in mind when you look at his messy departure with the Nets. He's a basketball genius of the highest order with self-destructive tendencies who knows how to watch his back - he's the Don Draper of the NBA. It may look like he's been banished to a basketball backwater in Milwaukee, but Jason Kidd always has a plan.

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