Whether you regard Jason Kidd's decision to intentionally spill soda on the court to delay a recent game as a cheap stunt or a vet move, there was an undeniable ingenuity to his action. He was out of timeouts, he had one last chance, and he needed to draw up a play. The soda spill helped him accomplish his goal, even if it wound up costing him a $50,000 fine from the NBA office.
But was this a matter of quick-thinking or quick recall? Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Raptors coach Dwane Casey both seem to believe that Kidd, a former Mavericks player, got the idea to spill soda on the court from a 2009 game between the Mavericks and Bulls, when longtime NBA coach Del Harris pulled the same move.
To recap: With 8.3 seconds remaining and the Lakers leading the Nets 96-94, Jodie Meeks prepared to take the second of two free throws. Without any timeouts, Kidd began a conversation with second-year guard Tyshawn Taylor while holding a plastic cup of soda and ice in his right hand. Taylor bumped into Kidd’s arm during the conversation, causing the soda to spill on the court, and Kidd initially bent over as if he was going to scoop up the ice cubes and cup before an official stopped the game so that an attendant could clean up the mess.
Video replay of the sequence suggested that Kidd instructed Taylor to “hit me,” causing the spill and the subsequent delay of game. During the stoppage of play, which happened to ice Meeks at the free throw line, a Nets assistant coach diagrammed a play for Brooklyn’s final offensive possession. The Nets fell to 4-11 after Paul Pierce was unable to hit a potential game-tying three-pointer during Brooklyn’s last possession, giving L.A. a 99-94 victory.
Asked where he came up with the idea for the spill, Kidd offered a vague explanation to reporters on Friday after first denying that he did it intentionally on Wednesday.
''Um, just listening to other coaches or other owners talk about coaches and what they've done,'' he explained, according to the Associated Press.
Cuban offered a more precise answer when he posted a Twitter link to a YouTube video on Friday that asked the question, "Who was the first coach to spill a coke to get a time out?"
In the video, shown below, the Mavericks lead the Bulls 114-111 with 2.9 seconds remaining in overtime of a Feb. 7, 2009 game. As Dirk Nowitzki stepped to the free throw line for his second foul shot, court attendants had to address a spill in front of Chicago's bench, apparently caused by Bulls assistant coach Del Harris. Of course, the Bulls -- like the Nets -- just happened to be out of timeouts and were in position to attempt a game-tying three-pointer if Nowitzki were to miss his second free throw.
And, wouldn't you know it, Kidd just happened to be in the middle of the Mavericks' strategy-planning before Nowitzki rendered moot the exchange by knocking down his second free throw. Dallas won 115-114 despite a last-second three-pointer by Ben Gordon.
"Everything old is new again," the video's description reads. "Few people know the game [like] Del Harris."
Casey, who was an assistant coach for the Mavericks in 2009, also believes that Kidd was inspired by Harris.
"We had an incident when I was coaching in Dallas," Casey told TSN's "Off The Record" this week. "Del Harris was on the sideline with Chicago, accidentally dropped some water. They had no timeouts remaining, same situation. Jason was playing for us at the time, so he probably remembers that. ... If he [spilled the soda] on purpose, I thought it was a great play on his part, the game within the game. He had no timeouts, he had a chance to draw up a last-second play and the ball almost went in. [The Nets] got a great look on it."
The similarities between the two situations are so startling that you can't help but conclude that Kidd realized what Harris had done and put the idea in his back pocket. The time/score situations were almost exactly the same. The spills occurred at the exact same point (between the free throws). The delays prompted immediate strategic responses from the opposition as they happened (The Mavericks made a point of lining up their defense while the Lakers actually tried to worm their way into Brooklyn's huddle). And, yes, the spill tactic was ultimately unsuccessful in both cases.
While Kidd is just reaching the one-month mark on his professional coaching career, Harris began his coaching career in the mid-1970s and was still coaching in the D-League until recently. Along the way, he guided the Rockets to the 1981 Finals and was named Coach of the Year in 1995 after leading the Lakers to 48 wins. He coached more than 1,000 games as a head coach and ranks No. 25 all-time with 556 career wins. Not a bad brain to pick.
This all begs the next logical question: Did Harris invent the trick, or was he similarly inspired by someone else along the way?