Only in the NBA, and in this nutty offseason, would spurning the Dallas Mavericks for the New York Knicks actually feel like a good idea. And though the Knicks aren't about to set the Eastern Conference ablaze, something about veteran Jason Kidd deciding to leave the Mavericks as a free agent and join New York just feels right. Even if the Dallas Mavericks might be a few tweaks and trades away from being better next year. Even if the Mavs are led by a billionaire who actually thinks things out. Even if the Knicks are the Knicks.
Jason Kidd lives in the New York metropolitan area. He's enjoyed two stints with the Dallas Mavericks with the latter culminating in an NBA championship in 2011, but he's also shot just over 36 percent from the field his last two seasons. He turned the ball over on nearly a quarter of the possessions he used up last year, his defense has faded significantly, and his 3-point shooting has dipped down to the ranks of below average. And yet two teams wanted him, badly, enough to potentially pay him until he turned 42 — even if we're currently unaware of just how many years this three-year deal is guaranteed for.
And he chose the Knicks — THE KNICKS!
(And it makes sense.)
Far beyond the initial cable TV reaction that has us immediately looking toward Kidd's ability to potentially mentor Jeremy Lin, the sad-yet-warming fact is that the best thing Kidd does well now is exactly what these oddball Knicks need — someone to throw a two-footed lob pass through and/or above the defense as they attempt to front Carmelo Anthony at the triple-threat position, or the increasingly stagnant Amar'e Stoudemire by shooting the gap between him and his much-loved elbow-extended spot at the high post.
In a way, Kidd will be acting as a Mark Jackson sort. Teams won't have to guard him but will, and he'll just pinpoint with passes while taking advantage of the fact that teams will continue to overreact and treat him as a major threat from behind the 3-point arc. It's a simple, staid offense that will be run by a man with a brain that demands complexity and improvisation and quick movement, though his weary legs guarantee that this brain has to play down to his team's offense.
If that sounds like a shot at both Kidd and the Knicks, it is; but that doesn't mean we shouldn't agree to the move, and we certainly agree that this is an upgrade. I'm very much looking forward to this setup.
At this point, Carmelo Anthony is stuck where he's at. He was always more Adrian Dantley than Ray Allen -- and the problem inherent in that is that Anthony always had the ability to be a fabulous combination of the two, and that Dantley was paid like and treated as a secondary star. Anthony has never given himself the legs nor the space to turn into the sort of player that can drive defenses batty even without touching a ball during a possession, as he's constantly coming to the strong side and demanding things. Sometimes it works, and you get those 30 points on an efficient night. Usually, it's just big numbers with a lot of hoggin' goin' on. I can't blame Anthony at this point, it's all he knows.
Kidd will aid in that sort of play. He'll take chances with over the top lobs that will force Anthony to move more; to grab a pass like Willie Mays grabbed Vic Wertz's bomb, spin and find that baseline wide open for a play to put the opposing defense in the penalty. Kidd will allow Stoudemire, who might not be as explosive when he changes course and dips backdoor after his defender overplays the entry pass these days, for the perfectly timed touch pass spaced well enough to get Amar'e a good look while affording him enough time to avoid that help defender and potential charge.
He really is a quarterback, at this point. A Dan Marino in his final year at quarterback with those plodding legs, to be sure, but there will be times when Kidd will adapt.
The Knicks weren't going anywhere, either. If they pull a sign-and-trade for Kidd, they can keep the salary cap exemption they were planning on using to sign the guard. They are sure to reel J.R. Smith back in, a player that Kidd can find in transition and give that Kidd-branded exasperated half-smile to. They can even decide to either take out Houston's aggression against itself and walk away from matching the hefty price tag for the guard in Jeremy Lin that they cut eight months ago (while going after Raymond Felton as a result), or they can commit to Lin and that obvious Sports Illustrated feature for next fall ("he's been the best, you can't help but pay attention to everything he says" Lin went on …).
Essentially, now that the Knicks have locked themselves into nearly hitting the salary cap, on average, through just Anthony, Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler over the next three seasons, this a fair bit of reconciliation. Even if Kidd could fall even further off, which seems hard to do, his thin salary could be used in a deal, or just shuttled away.
Yes, they might be paying a guy until he's 42. A point guard, no less. But it works.
Dallas? We have no idea what comes next.
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