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Sizing up the suitors


The first Jason Kidd sighting came at 5:06 p.m., when Kidd emerged from the tunnel adjacent to the Nets' locker room and headed to the court for a brief warm-up. As he tossed up shots, Kidd joked with an assistant coach and even engaged in a playful tussle with Richard Jefferson as Jefferson was leaving the court.

Fifteen minutes later, Kidd was gone, back down the same tunnel from whence he came. He stopped to sign a few autographs from a group of kids who had been clamoring for him before racing back down the tunnel.

You would never know he wanted no part of being there.

Trade speculation involving Kidd has become almost an annual event in New Jersey. In 2005, Kidd, irate at management for letting Kenyon Martin leave via free agency, reportedly tried to force his way out of the Swamp. Right around this time last year, the Nets were trying to persuade the Lakers to part with AndrewBynum in exchange for Kidd, only to have the Lakers balk.

So while while it is not a revelation that Kidd recently asked out of New Jersey, this time Nets president Rod Thorn may oblige.

Why? Because the Nets are not a good team.

On Tuesday night, the Nets snapped a nine-game losing streak with an 87-80 win over Milwaukee. New Jersey struggled to beat a team that was playing without star shooting guard Michael Redd and forward Desmond Mason. The Nets survived despite shooting 40.5 percent from the field (including 31.3 percent from three-point range) and having just two players score in double figures.

This is not a championship team Thorn has assembled in New Jersey. It's not even a playoff team. The trio of Kidd ($19.7 million salary), Vince Carter ($15 million) and Jefferson ($12.2 million) have gobbled up nearly all of the Nets' cap space, leaving retreads like Malik Allen, Bostjan Nachbar and an aging Jamaal Magloire as complementary players. While young big men Sean Williams and Josh Boone have shown potential, Thorn's other recent draft picks (Marcus Williams, Antoine Wright) haven't panned out yet.

Which has left Kidd, well, frustrated. Especially when no one wants to talk about the game.

Afterward, one reporter asked Kidd about his recent trade demand.

"Good try, though," Kidd said.

Another followed up with a similar question.

"Strike two," Kidd said.

Kidd's trade demand is going to be the topic du jour in New Jersey, with the 312 local papers all speculating on his preferred destination and how much he has left in the tank.

"I really don't think he has lost a step," an advance scout said. "It just looks like he's not trying that hard. He still has a lot left and if he is traded, whatever team gets him, look out."

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Who will that team be? I'm of the opinion that Kidd will remain in New Jersey, at least until the offseason when Thorn can deal from a stronger position. Any deal now would net the Nets maybe 40 cents on the dollar. But since playing GM is fun, let's visit a couple of trade scenarios. Bear in mind, these trades involve just the main pieces it will take to get Kidd. In most cases, some throw-ins will be needed to make the salaries match.

The principals:Jason Terry ($8.9 million), Devean George ($2.1 million) and DeSagana Diop ($2.1 million)

The skinny: The Mavericks are always going to be on a potential list to acquire Kidd because a) they have the appropriate assets and b) Kidd wants to play there. But while Dallas may have been willing to put together an attractive package for Kidd last season (read: Devin Harris), it is less than appealing now. Harris, one of the premier defensive point guards in the Western Conference, is off-limits in any deal for Kidd. His replacement on the bargaining table is Terry, who is older (30 compared to the 24-year-old Harris) and more expensive, making him significantly less appealing.

Odds of a deal: 10-1

The principals:Nene ($8.8 million), Linas Kleiza ($1 million), J.R. Smith ($2.1 million)

The skinny: This was the deal. The Nets would get a prototypical young power forward in Nene, who would pair with Jefferson to form the new core of the franchise for the next five years. The Nuggets? Well, they would be downright scary. Kidd's presence would allow Allen Iverson to defend point guards, make Carmelo Anthony a 30-point scorer and reinvigorate Kenyon Martin. A Martin-Kidd-Anthony fast break? The Nuggets would lead the league in free throw attempts. Denver would instantly become a favorite in the West, while New Jersey would have a solid building block for its future. Nene's battle with testicular cancer, however, probably quashes this deal.

Odds of a deal: 35-1

The principals:Josh Smith ($2.2 million), Tyronn Lue ($3.5 million), Shelden Williams ($3.1 million)

The skinny: How long has Atlanta been needing a point guard? Well, since Mookie Blaylock left in 1999. Kidd would instantly accelerate the development of the Hawks' younger players, who have already begun to jell this season. Atlanta could put together a package around the talented Smith, who is having a career year in his fourth season. The Hawks wouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger because a) Smith is a restricted free agent and already rejected a five-year, $45 million offer in training camp and b) as I reported last week in Sports Illustrated, the relationship between Smith and Mike Woodson has deteriorated to the point that he probably wouldn't re-sign if Woodson remains as coach.

Odds of a deal: 45-1

The principals:Jameer Nelson ($1.2 million), Hedo Turkoglu ($6.4 million)

The Skinny: The Magic have been impressive at times during the season (witness their 17-10 road record) but appear to be a piece or two away from being real title contenders. Kidd would be that piece. Turkoglu has been spectacular, averaging 19.3 points 6.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists, but GM Otis Smith would be crazy not to include him in a deal for Kidd. Think about it: A Kidd-Rashard Lewis-Dwight Howard troika? That would certainly catapult Orlando into the Boston/Detroit level.

Odds of a deal: 60-1

The principals:Drew Gooden ($6.5 million), Larry Hughes ($12 million)

The skinny: Sorry, Cleveland, but the next time you see Kidd and LeBron James wearing the same uniform will be next summer in Beijing. Gooden is attractive to New Jersey, but Hughes' onerous contract ($26.4 million remaining over the next two seasons) and inability to hit a jump shot (34.9 percent from the field) makes him about as desirable as an encore screening of Gigli. But it's nice to fantasize about the number of point-blank shots James would get running the fast break with Kidd.

Odds of a deal: 80-1

The real longshots: Sacramento (Mike Bibby), Charlotte (Emeka Okafor), L.A. Clippers (Elton Brand)