Friday, April 19, 2013
Kidd's playoff experience key for Knicks
By Jared Zwerling
The average career of an NBA player is about five years.
Jason Kidd is 40 years old and he's played 18 straight years, with only the first two resulting in early summers. He's sixth on the active list for most playoff games (146), and he's gone to the NBA Finals three times, winning a championship in 2011 with the Dallas Mavericks.
Jason Kidd has made a huge difference in his first season with the Knicks.
Now Kidd's one day away from trying to help the Knicks win a title for the first time in 40 years.
"He means a lot for this team, man, because you've got a guy with experience," Raymond Felton said. "He's going to be a Hall of Fame point guard for sure. To have him on our team, with his knowledge and his skill play, it gives us an advantage for sure."
How much does Kidd mean to the Knicks? A member of the Mavericks' basketball staff said Kidd "always" has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
"That's what we miss about him," he said.
This season, the Mavericks failed to reach the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.
What's unique about Kidd is that he plays on high alert, hustling constantly to make the big play. He doesn't take possessions off -- an important mentality in the playoffs. He knows where the ball needs to go, and where it's going to be. He sees two passes ahead and predicts the direction of missed shots, leading to second-chance points.
Offensively, Kidd has superb awareness of 3-point shooters spotting up, and he knows where they like the ball. In fact, he's been known through the years to pull his teammates aside to discuss their shooting tendencies. The art of the pass is overlooked in the league as far as it relates to a shooter's specific hand placement. Kidd has that down to a science.
"One of the great passers to ever play this game," said Jeff Van Gundy, an ESPN analyst and former Knicks coach.
Kidd has even fine-tuned his own shot in the last few years, focusing on a quicker release since playing more off-guard in Dallas. Some of his teammates have said he'll occasionally beat the best shooters in 3-point competitions during practice. That outside touch has been a catalyst in the Knicks' space-out offense.
"He's a freak, man," coach Mike Woodson said. "Once in a while, players come along that can just do everything, and he does everything for your ballclub to help you win. A lot of teams have benefited from it and we have this season thus far."
Defensively, Kidd's size -- 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds -- enables him to box out smaller players at his position. He's also able to hold a strong base against swingmen in post-up situations. That's happened plenty this season, with Kidd playing more of the 2 or 3 spots in the Knicks' smaller lineups. However, in isolations and pick-and-rolls, he struggles a bit with his slower lateral movement.
But Kidd makes up for that lack of speed in transition, where he has facilitated many quick 3-pointers. Many opponents say the Knicks' biggest threat is via those shots.
"He still has some levity; he just uses it in spurts," a veteran NBA scout said. "He has to pick and choose when he can use it, but he's really deceptive with it."
Off the court, the team has credited Kidd's communication for their defensive improvements. That voice will be crucial if the Knicks face the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. That was the team his Mavericks upset in the 2011 Finals after being down 2-1 in the series.
"He and Tyson [Chandler] both are battle-tested," Woodson said. "Maybe when their backs were against the wall in a few series, they overcame that, and hopefully that can rub off on our ballclub because it's not going to be rosy all the way through the playoffs."
If the Knicks can piggyback off of Kidd's leadership and playmaking, and get the job done in June, he'll join Robert Parish and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as players 40 or above to win a title.