NEW YORK –- Rod Thorn needed a leader.
He needed to improve the Nets’ chemistry, rebounding and defense. Trading Stephon Marbury, a young explosive point guard who was coming off an All-Star appearance, was a risk. But it was a risk worth taking to acquire Jason Kidd.
“Marbury at the time, was a tremendous talent,” Thorn said earlier this week. “The jury was out on who got the better of the deal prior to the players playing. People saying why would [the Nets] take a 28-year-old guy and give up a 22-year-old guy, why would they do that?
“Here is a guy who has his whole future ahead of him, he’s already an All-Star, he is a New York product, why would they do that? A lot of people felt that.”
The deal ended up adding to Thorn’s legacy, which is highlighted by the drafting of Michael Jordan for the Chicago Bulls. Kidd led the Nets to two straight NBA Finals appearances and four Atlantic Division titles. Tonight, he had his No. 5 jersey raised to the rafters and retired by the Nets.
Turns out the deal worked out just fine for Thorn and the Nets.
“Our feeling was after our first year was we had some talent on the team but we lacked defense, rebounding and chemistry,” Thorn explained of his thinking. “We didn’t share the ball real well with each other, defensively, we just weren’t very good at all and rebounding-wise we were below average.”
Thorn said he and the Suns were talking trade at the Chicago pre-draft camp in June of 2001 but talks stalled. Then a few days before the NBA draft in late June, the two teams began discussing a trade again.
Thorn had assembled several pieces to put around Kidd. He signed a center with good hands and offensive skills in Todd MacCulloch. He made a draft-day deal for rookies Richard Jefferson and Jason Collins. Kerry Kittles and Kenyon Martin were coming back from injuries and Keith Van Horn was another piece Kidd could make better.
“Keith was talented, Kenyon was talented, Stephon Marbury was very talented,” Thorn said. “But we just didn’t mesh together because we were in the basics of the game and all the little intangible ways, we just weren’t very good.”
Under Kidd’s direction, the Nets doubled their win total from the season before with 52 victories and the trade turned the Nets into contenders.
“Jason was what put it all together,” Thorn said.
Thorn ended up trading a young and talented point guard in Marbury for one of the greatest point guards to ever play the game.
“First-ballot Hall of Famer,” Thorn said. “There just aren’t many Jason Kidds, players that play to win the game and that aren’t worried about their stats and aren’t worried about how they look.
“It is all about did you win the game?” Thorn continued. “That is what he brought and he made other players better. Very few players can do that. He will live in the pantheon of great players in the NBA.”