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Mavs upgrade thanks to Jason Kidd

Mark Cuban was so miffed about the way Jason Kidd bolted the Big D for the Big Apple that the Dallas Mavericks owner declared Kidd's No. 2 would never hang from the American Airlines Center rafters.

Of course, a man is allowed to change his mind. Hey, that's what happened with Kidd, who agreed in principle with the Mavs on a three-year deal worth a little more than $9 million one July morning only to reverse course during a round of golf that day, opting to accept a similar offer from the New York Knicks.

Cuban, who considered Kidd a close friend and made it clear that the future Hall of Fame point guard could always have a position with his franchise, felt betrayed. But time heals many wounds, so maybe Cuban isn't so mad four months later.

"I was never pissed off, just disappointed," Cuban said. "But I'm done talking about it."

OK, fine. The least Cuban could do, however, is bring a big thank you card to Madison Square Garden to give Kidd before the Mavs and Knicks meet Friday night.

All due respect to Kidd, a legend who played such a vital role in delivering Dallas its first title only two seasons ago, but the Mavs are much better off without him. His double-clutch decision forced the Mavs into the future.

And Darren Collison, Kidd's replacement in Dallas, just might be a big part of that future.

The hiccup-quick Collison is definitely a better point guard of the present for the Mavs, whose roster features only two men who played a postseason minute during the title run, injured forwards Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion.

The days of a point guard serving primarily as a savvy orchestrator in Dallas are done, at least for the remainder of the Dirk era. They need a dynamic playmaker at the position, which is why they hoped to land either Chris Paul or Deron Williams when they decided after the lockout to create salary-cap space instead of keeping Tyson Chandler and the rest of the championship core intact.

They instead acquired Collison in what appears to be a heck of a bargain, bringing him to Dallas along with swingman Dahntay Jones in the sign-and-trade deal that sent reserve center Ian Mahinmi to the Indiana Pacers.

So far, the results are certainly encouraging for the surprising 4-1 Mavs and Collison, who is playing for his third team in the final season of his rookie deal. He's been a turbo boost of fresh air for an offense that ranked 22nd among NBA teams in efficiency last season and sits at third right now, even though Nowitzki has yet to play.

You won't hear this from Collison, who has so much respect for Kidd that he opted for No. 4 in Dallas despite wearing No. 2 since his high school days, but he has been a significant upgrade. Numbers this convincing can't lie.

The 25-year-old Collison is averaging 16.2 points per game. The 39-year-old Kidd, by contrast, averaged 6.2 last year and had a season high of 15.

Collison, who is also averaging a career-best 7.2 assists per game, already has a couple of double-doubles. Kidd, the active triple-doubles leader by a long shot, had one double-double all of last season.

Simply put, Collison adds dimensions to coach Rick Carlisle's flow offense that Kidd isn't capable of at his advanced age. The Mavs are playing at a much faster pace and have a point guard who is a major threat in pick-and-roll situations and as a penetrator.

"He's everything we thought he was," Cuban said, "and then some."

Cuban, who will talk all night about Collison, insists the Collison trade would have been made whether or not Kidd left the Mavs. However, nobody can argue that Kidd's departure meant the Mavs had to hand Collison the keys to the offense and put him in a position to lead.

"I do feel like this is my team as far as being the leader," Collison said. "This is everybody else's team as well, but as the point guard, I do try to take control. That's my job."

It's been like trading in an old luxury car with a lot of miles for a late-model sports car.

That old luxury car fits the Knicks, who needed a sage veteran, just fine. It's not as if Kidd is regretting his decision as he commutes to his home in the Hamptons. He's playing well in a part-time role for a 3-0 team.

"New York is a legit championship contending team now, especially with Kidd on the team," said Carlisle, who is sure to greet his old point guard with a hug Friday. "He brings that winning presence to their situation. You can already tell it's rubbed off on them in a big way."

Meanwhile, Collison has revved up the Mavs.

It's too early to say for sure whether Collison is a foundation piece for the Mavs. They're leasing the sports car this season and will make a long-term decision this summer.

The Mavs would love nothing more than for Collison and O.J. Mayo, the shooting guard whose early results in Dallas have also been a raving success, to prove themselves worthy of being Dallas' backcourt of the future. While waiting for their chance to start meshing with Nowitzki, Collison is confident the Mavs can keep winning and he can continue putting up career-best numbers.

"I'm in a system that suits me better," Collison said. "I'm in a system that I'm able to probe the lane, I'm able to make better reads. That makes it easier for my game."

He's a point guard who suits the Mavs' current situation better than his Hall of Fame predecessor. That should make it much easier for Cuban's Mavs to move on.