MIAMI -- After Thursday morning's shootaround at AmericanAirlines Arena, LeBron James said that New York is a more experienced and dangerous team now. He also called the addition of Jason Kidd, his former Olympic teammate in 2008, a "key piece" to the improved Knicks.
"I think his basketball IQ is pretty much one of the highest that we have in this league, and it kind of trickles down to everyone else," James said. "I mean, in the '08 Olympics, he was our starting point guard, and I think he took, what, one shot a game.
"He was one of our leaders. He kept us in position, he was always there rotation-wise, kept us in our offense, and made us move the ball and never let us become stagnant. His mental aspect of the game just kind of rubs off on everyone."
James also knows Kidd's game well from the 2011 NBA Finals, when the future Hall of Fame point guard helped lead the Mavericks to an upset over the Heat. Now, Kidd is trying to duplicate history against the league's top team.
As James described, Kidd has been a big influence on the Knicks. When players are asked about the positive changes or winning culture of the team, they often first mention Kidd's leadership as a major spark for that. For example, he was a main facilitator in getting the guys together earlier in the offseason to work out and develop chemistry -- and since then, he's helped the team play harder and smarter.
Kidd, as a member of the Knicks' unique two point-guard starting backcourt, has helped the team become the most efficient offense in the league. They're currently averaging top marks in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.84) and fewest turnovers per game (11.0).
As an added bonus, Kidd is excelling as an off guard. While he's been getting his teammates open shots -- their 40.8 3-point percentage ranks them third-best in the NBA -- he's been knocking down his own. In fact, he leads the league in 3-point accuracy (a career-high 51.1 percent), making nearly two per game. While the Knicks are talking about preparing for Ray Allen (50.0 percent) and Rashard Lewis (48.5), Kidd is as good of a threat right now.
He represents a big advantage the Knicks have heading into Thursday night's game. With the Heat's perimeter hurting -- point guards Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole are banged up -- the Knicks will look to take advantage of their opponent's defensive rotations. That's how the Knicks won back on Nov. 2 with their 19 3-pointers, compared to the Heat's seven.
Carmelo Anthony's post-ups, penetrations and passing have been a big reason for the Knicks' fluid ball rotations, so it will be interesting to see how they adjust with him out of the lineup or in it, but likely minimized with his lacerated finger. But Mike Woodson will stress attacking to get Kidd, Raymond Felton, J.R. Smith, Steve Novak and Ronnie Brewer going from downtown.
You can follow Jared Zwerling on Twitter.