Jason Kidd hits the game-winner. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBA/Getty Images)
On Sunday night, Jason Kidd wore a New York Rangers hockey helmet out for the second half of the New York Knicks' game against the Denver Nuggets after taking a first-quarter shot to the head. On Tuesday night, the 39-year-old guard had what longtime Rangers broadcaster and Friend of BDL Marv Albert might call a kick save and a beauty.
With less than one minute left in a game knotted at 97, after J.R. Smith fired a 3-pointer that missed long but was kept alive off the rim and tapped back by Tyson Chandler, then corralled in the backcourt by Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks had 35 seconds, the ball and a second chance to take the lead over the crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets. New York worked the ball on the right side of the floor as the clock wound down, Anthony to Smith to point guard Raymond Felton in the near corner. As Felton began to drive toward the lane, he saw his veteran backcourt partner standing all alone — like, comically alone — on the left wing, above the 3-point arc, so he fired a crosscourt pass to the longtime New Jersey Nets superstar.
"You hate to see a guy like that catch the ball at the end of the game," Nets reserve Jerry Stackhouse told the New York Times' Howard Beck after the game, "because most of the time something bad happens for the opposing team and something good happens for his team."
Kidd splashed through the 3-pointer, his sixth of the night on eight attempts, over the outstretched arm of the too-late-to-close-out Stackhouse and got dumped to the deck in the process, putting the Knicks up 100-97 and sending him to the line with a chance to extend the lead to four with 24.1 seconds left. He'd miss the freebie, but Kidd's 3-pointer stood up as the margin of victory in a hotly contested affair, drawing New York even with Brooklyn in this year's inaugural "Battle of the Boroughs."
Just one problem: It probably shouldn't have counted.
Cast your mind back to the long, long ago of late October, when the NBA stated in a loud, clear voice that its referees would be vigilantly enforcing the so-called "Reggie Miller rule" this coming season. We reproduce the chapter and verse from Boston Globe columnist Gary Washburn's original note on the matter:
Also, officials will emphasize the "Reggie Miller rule" for a shooter who kicks his legs out during jump-shot attempts to create contact and draw fouls. Officials plan to call offensive fouls on shooters who blatantly kick out their legs to initiate contact.
And the text of the NBA's official video explanation of what such an offensive foul would look like, transcribed by Ben Golliver of SI.com's The Point Forward:
In the video, Miami Heat All-Star guard Dwyane Wade was singled out for flopping on a play in which he kicked out his leg to draw contact from Boston Celtics wing Mickael Pietrus.
The video's narrator explained Wade's infraction: "After releasing the jump shot, the shooter, No. 3 in the white uniform, extends his right leg attempting to draw a defensive foul. While there is marginal contact on the play, the flail and spin to the floor by the offensive player is an over-embellishment and it's inconsistent with marginal contact."
Now, reasonable people can argue over whether Kidd's reaction to being contacted by Stackhouse was "an overembellishment ... inconsistent with marginal contact," and an argument could be made that this was less Kidd blatantly sticking his leg out to draw a foul than a slightly exaggerated version of Kidd's natural shooting stance (his legs come apart a lot after release) that could've been brought on him trying to jack the shot quickly to beat Stackhouse's closeout. That argument, however, would most likely be made by Knicks fans and Knicks fans only, because this seems like a pretty clear example of precisely the kind of play the officials were supposed to be emphasizing this year; ESPN color commentator and former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy certainly thought so during the game, and Nets blogger Devin Kharpertian (obviously) agreed late Tuesday at The Brooklyn Game.
Shortly after the game ended, the man for whom the play was named weighed in on Twitter:
J Kidd, I love it!!! Leg kick??? Nah bucket!!!!
— Reggie Miller (@ReggieMillerTNT) December 12, 2012
Which, weirdly, probably angered fans of both the Nets and the Knicks, given New York fans', um, intense relationship with Reggie Miller.
Instead of an offensive foul on Kidd, a waived-off basket and the Nets getting possession tied at 97 with a tick over 24 seconds left and a chance to win it, the bucket counted and Kidd went to the line. (It's pretty perfect that Kidd, who'd hit 23 of his first 24 free throws on the season, missed the and-one, because, well, y'know.)
You'd figure that, following a review of the game tape, there's a decent chance Kidd winds up receiving a call from the commissioner's office with a warning for violating the league's anti-flopping penalty, as Los Angeles Clippers guard Chauncey Billups was after kicking his left leg out to draw a foul against Mo Williams while shooting a 3-pointer late in a Dec. 3 matchup with the Utah Jazz. After receiving his warning, Billups told Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times that he has no plans of changing things up:
"They call it a flop, I call it gamesmanship," Billups, a 15-year veteran, said. "I worked hard to get that. I learned that from some great players. I'm not going to let that go because of what they are trying to do. I'm going to play how I play."
Billups made two of his three freebies, and the Clippers won that game. Kidd missed his, keeping the Nets within range of tying on their final possession, but the three points stayed on the board, a pair of long-range attempts by Gerald Wallace and Deron Williams went wanting, and the Knicks walked away with the win. So yeah: Why would they change?
Kidd finished with 18 points, all from beyond the arc, to go with six rebounds, six assists, one steal and zero turnovers in 37 minutes of work. Anthony was dominant throughout, scoring an NBA-season-high-tying 45 points on 15-for-24 shooting (including 5-for-7 from deep) to go with five rebounds and three assists in 44 minutes, which included him playing the entire second half to push the Knicks' Eastern Conference-best mark to 16-5.
Starting in place of injured center Brook Lopez, who routinely torched the Knicks in the teams' first meeting but remains sidelined with a right foot injury, Andray Blatche picked up the mantle of interior nemesis, scoring 23 points on 13 shots to lead Brooklyn. The backcourt of Williams and Joe Johnson combined for 34 points on 30 shots for the Nets, who lost their fifth straight to fall to 11-9 on the season.
If the clip above isn't rocking for you, please feel free to check out the game-winner elsewhere, thanks to our friends at the National Basketball Association.