2007-01-26 / Sports

No Kidding, Jason Kidd Is Still Among the Despite Off The Court Problems

By John J. Buro

In New York, David Lee has received much acclaim for the 21 times he has posted double-digit games of points and rebounds. Perhaps, because the sophomore forward has only started 12 of 43 games, such numbers warrant this attention; this total is 11th best in the NBA and, because Madison Square Garden remains the place to watch a basketball game, Lee's contributions are difficult to overlook.

Across the Hudson River, at the Continental Airlines Arena, the New Jersey Nets have forged to the top of an all sub-.500 Atlantic Division. That they are positioned there is not surprising.

The Nets, at full strength, are among the best in the East. They represented their conference in both the 2002 and 2003 NBA Finals, and were primed to return there before Nenad Krstic - their starting center and No. 2 scorer [16.4 points/6.8 rebounds]- tore the anterior cruciate ligament [ACL] in his left knee just before Christmas.

New Jersey, which walked away with the division title after winning 49 games last season, still have Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson and Mikki Moore, a rapidly-improving 7'0" center who is playing for his eighth team since 1998. But, make no mistake; they are still driven by Jason Kidd, a future Hall-of-Fame guard, who has achieved triple-doubles almost as frequently as Lee hits doubles.

Kidd, whose 83 T-D's have moved him into third place all-time [behind Oscar Robertson's 181 and Magic Johnson's 138], is a rarity in today's game. Not many players can score, rebound and pass with any consistency. Thus, it is important to consider what needed to be done, on the court, for him to accomplish this feat.

The No. 2 pick of the 1994 Draft [Dallas Mavericks] did not record a triple-double until his 69th game; from April 5-20, 1995, Kidd already had four. Through 907 games, the former co-Rookie of the Year [with Detroit's Grant Hill] has averaged one every 10.9 games. He established a league mark with at least one in 13 consecutive seasons, and has torched each of the 30 teams with the exception of Boston and New Jersey.

Oscar Robertson's 1961-62 averages [30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, 11.4 assists] are seen as the benchmark for the modern player. While very few realized its significance forty-five years ago, Kidd has a great appreciation of Robertson's feat.

"Everything has to go my way," he told reporters several years ago. "My teammates have to knock down shots, I have to knock down shots, and then I have to battle the trees -the big guys- for the rebound. People think it's easier than it is. For Oscar to average a triple-double a whole season was just unbelievable."

Kidd's prowess, under ordinary conditions, is remarkable enough. But, given that his personal life is once again media fodder the pressure to perform is immense. In January 2001, he pled guilty to domestic abuse for assaulting his wife, Joumana; almost six years to the day, he filed for divorce, citing 'extreme cruelty' during their relationship. "Everyone has issues," said Jefferson, whose arrival in New Jersey preceded his teammate's by three weeks. "But, if you are strong mentally, you will be able to do your job. We've played our best basketball this season when there was the most adversity. "Many of us have been playing basketball since we were six or seven. It's easy to get our mind off things so we can play a game for two or three hours."

In those moments, Kidd -a seven-time All-Star- remains among the best in the game. Since 2001, when the Phoenix Suns dealt him to the Nets [for Stephon Marbury], he has accounted for 37 of Jersey's last 39 triple-doubles.

And, while he has become synonymous with such exploits, his impact was immediate. The Nets, 26-56 in 2000-01, improved to 52-30 during his first year, and Kidd finished second to the San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan in the MVP voting.

Along the way, he has reached 13,000 points, 8,000 assists and 5,500 rebounds -joining Earvin 'Magic' Johnson and Robertson as one of just three players to accomplish this. In February 2006, TNT - referencing the NBA's 60th anniversary, aired the 'Next 10' as an addendum to the NBA's 50 Greatest Players. A panel of sixteen analysts voted Kidd ninth.

A panel of coaches and teammates, both past and present, would surely agree.

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