Kidd a no-show during, after playoffs
Guard's disappearing act leaves questions unanswered, raises new ones
"Plain and simple," president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson would say, "this gives us the best chance to win a championship."
And Dirk Nowitzki, who craved Kidd's on-floor leadership, said, "The window is now."
Three postseasons later, the Mavericks are 8-13 with one series win in the playoffs. And after Dallas absorbed its latest playoff mishap as the first No. 2 seed to fall to a No. 7 seed since the first round expanded to best-of-seven, its experienced quarterback skipped out on the team's final huddle of the season.
When the Mavericks met Friday morning to drop the curtain on another missed opportunity, Nowitzki, beaten up physically and demoralized emotionally, was there and again faced the media with expected accountability and honesty.
Caron Butler, stung by a playoff benching, attended and then answered tough questions about fitting in and whether he's even a part of the Mavs' plans moving forward.
Every Maverick, from J.J. Barea to Jason Terry, from Matt Carroll to DeShawn Stevenson, met with the coaching staff in a team setting and conducted individual exit interviews. Everyone, that is, except the club's 37-year-old quarterback. He hopped a flight home.
The Mavs' brass publicly blew it off. Coach Rick Carlisle said he wasn't surprised Kidd bolted: "He went back to Phoenix, I think to get away from it and do some personal things, and so I got no problem with that."
He bailed on teammates to take care of personal things? Was Kidd actually upset with Carlisle for his handling of the rotation? Was he angry at underachieving teammates? Or was he seething at the realization of his own diminishing returns when trying to drive and create at the most critical of times? Kidd didn't show to let us know.
It's not as if Kidd ever held himself up as a leader on this team anyway. As recently as the start of the disastrous San Antonio series, Kidd reiterated his self-imposed place on the club: "I always thought I'm just a piece."
Yet the Mavs treat Kidd as royalty. "Hall of Famer" always precedes any reference to him. Even after his ugliest of three mediocre postseasons in Dallas, Nelson still stepped forward to elevate Kidd, who shot 30 percent and averaged 8.0 points and 7.0 assists in the series. Nelson said if everyone else would play as hard as Kidd, there would be few worries.
"Tell you what, if folks play like Jason Kidd, we're not," Nelson said when asked if the team was concerned about being the league's oldest this season. "What a lot of people call age we call experience, and that usually wins playoff games."
Nelson regurgitates the age-is-experience reference so often it's as if owner Mark Cuban embedded a microchip in his brain. Unfortunately, the "usually wins playoff games" part hasn't happened. Still, Carlisle insists Kidd can get it done in the grind-it-out, half-court theater of the playoffs.
"I do, yeah. I do, just based on his performance, based on what I've seen on a day-to-day basis the last couple of years," Carlisle said. "He poured his heart into this thing, really, ever since I've walked in the door here and been involved."
Realistically, Carlisle has no choice but to toe the line. He's locked into the disappearing Kidd for two more seasons -- assuming Carlisle lasts that long -- at $8.5 million each.
Kidd played far better last offseason than in any of his Dallas postseasons, having dragged the Mavs into free agency while he flirted with the New York Knicks. Cuban opened his wallet for $25 million, fully guaranteed, over three seasons, terms no team in its right mind would commit to, and terms that make Kidd absolutely untradable.
With Kidd locked up, the Mavs must find athletic scoring help for their lone star, Nowitzki, if they hope to win playoff battles against teams with multiple stars like San Antonio, Phoenix and the Lakers. Nowitzki still works way too hard for his points and carries the scoring burden every night. In Game 3 against the Spurs, he more than doubled the scoring of the other four starters combined. The Mavs must figure out a way to attain better balance.
Cuban and Nelson will try to negotiate a sign-and-trade this summer to acquire a big-time scorer. Kidd remains highly respected by his peers and, along with Nowitzki, might be enough to lure a free agent-to-be such as sharpshooter Joe Johnson -- assuming LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are unrealistic potential options -- but that remains to be seen. The Mavs will have plenty of competition.
Dallas plans to place Roddy Beaubois on the fast track this summer with hopes that the electric young slasher can reduce Kidd's workload and beef up team scoring.
"I'd like Jason's minutes to be more manageable next year. He was at 36 as an average this year," Carlisle said. "There are a lot of nights when it's tough getting him out [of games] and a lot of nights he doesn't want to come out, but he invests so much in winning and so much when he plays that being able to grab him two or three extra minutes of rest a game, I think, would be helpful."
Kidd would likely agree. But, he didn't show, so we don't know.