Tuesday February 19th, 2008

Jason Kidd was standing in the event-floor lobby that serves the Nets' locker room. It was a Tuesday night in November after a loss to the visiting Grizzlies and he was all but saying that he would like to be traded.

Most of the talk was about moving to Cleveland to play with LeBron James, because the Cavaliers were -- and are -- in need of a point guard or shooter (which means they may yet be another team that tries to make a major acquisition before Thursday's deadline). But Kidd also let me know, in a between-the-lines kind of way, that he would welcome a move to Dallas, where his career began as the No. 2 pick in 1994.

The ensuing SI.com story revealed that Kidd wanted to move to a contender. Three months later, with the trade to the Mavericks having finally been completed, the 34-year-old point guard finds himself teaming with Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard to have a go at the championship.

Kidd is certain to be criticized for leveraging his way out of New Jersey, where at $19.7 million he was among the top 10 highest-paid players in the league. In November, Kidd was already anticipating the heat he would take for demanding out of New Jersey. But he believed the Nets needed to rebuild with players younger than him, as they were in no position to contend with their current mix. Of course that view was self-serving, but it was not without validity: The longer the Nets held onto him, the less they were likely to receive in return.

This is no bad move for them. Devin Harris (who turns 25 on Feb. 27) can become a potential leader of a playoff team as Kidd's replacement in New Jersey. The Nets could have a terrific up-tempo team with Harris pushing Richard Jefferson, as well as a healthy Nenad Krstic in the mix, and DeSagana Diop or Sean Williams coming off the bench. The Nets may not be finished dealing yet, especially if they can negotiate a package for Vince Carter.

Kidd also felt strongly that he had done a lot to turn one of the East's worst franchises into a respectable team with two NBA Finals and six straight playoff appearances since his 2001 arrival. Now that he was approaching the end of his career, he hoped that the franchise would put him in a winning situation.

He can have no complaints with the Nets' response. As much as team president Rod Thorn must have disagreed with Kidd's point of view -- there is no doubt, after all, that the Nets have rewarded Kidd financially at the highest level for his contributions to the franchise -- he nonetheless came through with a trade that gives Kidd an opportunity to finish his career with a championship.

Kidd is putting up ridiculous numbers for someone who will turn 35 next month. His 10.4 assists rank third in the league, his 8.1 rebounds are far and away the league high among guards and his 37.2 minutes per game are among the top 35 in the league. His level of play will probably rise in Dallas, as excited as he'll be by the opportunity.

The Nets may be dissatisfied by the means of Kidd's farewell, but the marriage was good for both sides. Kidd had run his course in New Jersey and it was time for him to go. The qualities that enable him to remain a top-three point guard at his age are the same qualities that made it impossible for him to put up with the Nets' hopeless future. You can't have the 10.4 assists and 8.1 rebounds without also having the demands to be traded -- the same bottomless furnace drives both sides of Kidd's personality.

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