It's hard for Jason Kidd to have done much more with his career. The future Hall of Famer was named a collegiate All-American, received the Rookie of the Year award in 1995, and has collected ten All-Star, six All-NBA, and nine All-Defensive team selections. At 38, with seventeen NBA seasons under his belt, he is the active leader in games played. He is 2nd all-time in assists, 3rd in three pointer makes, and 3rd in steals. There's really only one thing that Jason could do to top everything he's done, and that's winning a championship, something that has eluded him, even in back to back NBA Final appearances with the Nets. And Kidd, who has almost supernatural knowledge of the game of basketball, knows this, and is ready to do whatever possible to change this.
Simply look at Games 1 and 2 to see that Jason Kidd has risen to the challenge and been the unexpected second scoring option to support Dirk. Kidd's 24 points on 9/14 shooting in Game 1 was, quite frankly, shocking. For a player shooting a staggering 19% from deep in the month of April, Kidd was seen as more of a liability. Everyone, from fans to talk show hosts to columnists said that his 24 points were just a fluke. Kidd, like the seasoned veteran he is, answered his critics with 18 on 7/11.
People have already penciled Jason Kidd as one of the greatest NBA players to never win a ring, but clearly Kidd is out to make history.
Tuesday night, TNT picked up on a story that ESPN Dallas had originally reported, that Kidd's improved shooting was in part due to a shooting tip from Dirk. A true veteran, this modification reportedly went down during the two games in which he was rested late in the regular season. Instead wasting the time he spent resting his 38-year old body during that stretch, Kidd watched game film and studied his shot. The results speak for themselves.
Its so much more than just hot shooting. Kidd has never had a scoring mentality. With 11578 assists and counting, that's clearly not an issue. But the point guards role is recognize what a team needs and then making it happen. In his second stint with Dallas, there has not many signs of Kidd recognizing that the team needed a basket, and putting it upon himself to deliver. However, in both playoff games, Kidd has taken over this role and delivered.
In Game 1, the dagger three with 0:25 left was a memorable example of Kidd taking the ball, running the clock down, then swishing Portland's last hopes down the drain. A better example, though, is earlier in the 4th quarter, where a 11-3 Portland run had changed a Maverick two-point lead into a six point Blazers advantage. When Dirk missed a jumper following offensive trip, the Blazers looked as if they might be able to run away with the game right then and there. Kidd hung back, though, pressuring Wallace and forcing a very errant pass. Back on offense, Kidd drives and steps back to drill a nineteen foot jumper with a hand in his face, a shot which he probably hasn't attempted in a game in several years.
The 2nd half of Game 2 is the part where Kidd plays positively un-Kidd like, in a good way. He had hit some shots in the first half, but after draining a contested three to start the quarter, Kidd decided that the best option for the team was to take over. He did just that, pulling up for a long two pointer when a pick freed him up with a foot of room on the next possession. After that, Kidd ran back to back pick and rolls, driving for a layup on the first and then banking a mid range jumper in.
I don't want to say that Kidd simply got hot because it was the playoffs and he wanted a ring. Its not the simple, and more likely its just a happy coincidence that hopefully continues through June. However, in both instances, the mentality that he is showing is exactly what the Mavericks need to make their championship run before their superstars need reading glasses and multivitamins. Kidd has stroked shots like Ray Allen (about the only comparison that can be made when the player in question is 3rd all time in three point makes) before, but he's truly showing his desire by stepping up, realizing the team's need, and instead of ill-advisedly deferring it to another player, doing it himself.
This effort from Kidd, even with his age holding him back from doing everything he would want to accomplish (he was visibly gassed in the 4th quarter of Game 2), is going to be crucial for the Mavericks to have hopes for a ring. No one expects Kidd to play this well the entire playoffs, but even if he falls off with his shot, the aggressive, smart mentality driving Kidd each and every play is going to propel those around him. Its about time Dirk had a teammate who understood and cared as much as he does.