I just went out and shot around in the backyard, getting a bit of that Texas summer sun. It's the first time I've shot baskets in about 6 months, ever since I came down on someone's foot, and heard a pop.
In those six months, I watched a lot of basketball, the better part of the season-and I think I got better at watching basketball. Maybe some part of it was that I was doing it passively, which hasn't been true in a while. Not just because I wasn't playing ball, but because for the first time since I got my driver's license, more or less, my team didn't really factor in.
But I think most of it is that I had you guys and the other writers here to smarten me up, get me away from just watching the ball, giving me things to think about.
So when I went out there, I was thinking about jumpshots. I've always been a pretty good jumpshooter and I figured, working my way back in, I'll have to depend on it even more. Specifically, I was thinking about a video that cropped up a couple of months ago comparing Jason Kidd's three-point shooting form with Steve Novak's and Ray Allen's, the major difference being a consistent landing pose. It was probably Seth Rosenthal's fault.
And so I wanted to land like Ray and Steve.
And it got me thinking about that time Dirk Nowitzki taught Jason Kidd to shoot for like five minutes.
Basketball is about matchups, I've always said. People say the best teams just win and this is broadly true, but only because the best teams are equipped for all different kinds of challenges. Sometimes, like in 2007, the "best" team isn't a good matchup for the Baron Davis Warriors. Sometimes, like in 2011, the "best team" isn't a good matchup for the Grizzlies.
So there's nothing strange about the idea that the championship winning Mavericks could have beaten the Lakers, the Thunder and the Heat...and still lost to the Blazers. And though in the glow of a championship it can be hard to remember, there's little question that the Mavs had more trouble with that scrappy, sixth place Blazers team than any of the monsters they'd later have to slay.
But they won, largely on the strength of an early 2-0 lead. And you know how they had that?
Because, in five minutes, Dirk Nowitzki taught Jason Kidd how to shoot. He told him to spread his fingers out on the ball. And for five minutes, it worked. When the dust cleared, the Mavericks had a 2-0 lead that would stand.
There's no way to talk about how unusual and how unlikely Kidd's sudden scoring outburst was. In those 2 games, Kidd averaged 21 points, a number he had reached exactly once during the regular season, a January 19th win against the Lakers. A number he reached three times since March 20th, 2010.
A number he, so far, has never reached again. You get that? In the first two games of the 2011 playoffs, the Mavericks were buoyed by a scoring outburst by Jason Kidd, for two games in a row, such as he's had three other times in the last four seasons.
There's unlikely, and then there's bordering on impossible. And it never came close to happening again, In that playoffs or any subsequent ones. After going 9-14 in game 1 (6-10 from three), and 7-11 in game 2, (3-6 from three -- that's right, he hit 4-5 non-three shots in that game), he'd finish out that series 10-29 and shoot above .500 only three more times in the whole rest of the playoffs.
This year, of course, he started the playoffs 3-8 over the course of the first few games, and then failed to score in ten straight playoff games, despite playing 20.6 minutes a night. I obviously don't need to tell you that the Mavericks would not have won the championship with that kind of performance from Kidd.
How much depends, as William Carlos Williams said, on the red wheelbarrow. Here in the NBA, we are in the business of knowing everything that's going to happen before it happens. We know that the Pacers are only accidentally hanging with the mighty Heat. We knew that Laker team was going to Western Conference Finals, and that Memphis wasn't worth thinking about.
Adrian Wojnarowski, who has since gone on to gain great fame for breaking news first, knew that the 2011 Mavericks were going to get swept in every series except, I believe, the Thunder, who, after the Mavs torched the Lakers, he gave the respect of dropping one game.
And you know what? The Blazers did win the next two games of that series. It's not unconceivable that the Mavericks could have lost the first two with Kidd's usual contribution and old Adrian would have been right.
So much depends. And if a whole championship run is built because for five minutes, Dirk Nowitzki showed Jason Kidd a new way to hold the basketball and it worked, it is not less, and was not less. It doesn't matter how or why it happened any more -- it stays happened. And bless it.