Kidd might get another chance to conquer the West

Now that the Nets-Mavericks trade has finally gone through, we can finally learn whether Jason Kidd can cut it in the Western Conference.

It's the glaring hole in his résumé.

If you look at the history, the Western Conference has meant the worst for Kidd. As frustrated as he might have been with the state of the Nets toward the end of his days in New Jersey, the facts show that the only reason we think of Kidd as a winner is because he spent the past six-plus seasons in the Eastern Conference.

In the West, Kidd's playoff results were practically McGradyian. He advanced past the first round only once in five tries -- and that lone victory came against a San Antonio Spurs team playing without an injured Tim Duncan in 2000. In his five years with the Phoenix Suns, his team won only eight of 25 playoff games.

But after he was traded to New Jersey in 2001, he took advantage of the diminished competition. The Nets won 52 games his first season in New Jersey, the high-water mark of his career and the first time he popped up in Most Valuable Player discussions. He won nine of 15 playoff series in New Jersey and the Nets had a playoff record of 43-35. The Nets went to the Finals in 2002 and 2003.

Of course, when they got there, they had to face the West. That meant more futility. They got swept by the Lakers, then were taken out in six games by the Spurs, suffering a fourth-quarter meltdown when they were on the verge of forcing a Game 7.

Including those two series, Kidd's playoff record against Western Conference teams is 10-25.

And that was an improvement over his first stay in Dallas, when Kidd, Jamal Mashburn and Jim Jackson suffered through a dysfunctional team that never produced more than 36 wins in a season.

"The nicest thing about this whole thing is the opportunity to get a fair shot going back to Dallas," Kidd said. "We were young and the Three J's didn't quite work out. But there's been a lot of basketball played from then and now. So I've seen a lot."

There is one important difference this go-round: He gets to play with the league's reigning MVP.

Kidd's game is about eliciting the best from his teammates. He'd much rather try to get the best out of Dirk Nowitzki than a broken-down Penny Hardaway or an aging Clifford Robinson.

Dallas is the best destination for the point guard and the best move for the Mavericks. If he had gone to the Lakers, Kidd might have had the same problems adjusting to the triangle offense that fellow Oakland native Gary Payton did in 2003. As much as LeBron James wanted Kidd in Cleveland, it's not the move the Cavaliers needed to make. LeBron doesn't need a set-up man to score. He's doing just fine on his own. The Cavaliers need people who can play off him. They need more shooters, more scorers. Those aren't Kidd's strengths. Mike Bibby, who's more of a combo guard than a pure point, actually would have been better for the Cavs -- but now he's heading to Atlanta.

In Dallas, Kidd can be the leader Nowitzki has struggled to be. And he can provide the toughness. One of Kidd's underrated traits is his physical strength, just ask anyone who has matched up against him.

The Mavericks are already fourth in the league in rebounding differential and now they're adding the top rebounding guard in the league. Hard to believe, but in acquiring Kidd, the Mavericks picked up more rebounds than the Suns did in trading for Shaquille O'Neal. Check the stats: 8.1 boards per game for Kidd, 7.8 for Shaq.

But that's an added bonus, like finding out Jessica Alba can cook. Kidd's returning to Dallas because of his passing, and with him around, the Mavericks are sure to boost their average of 19 assists per game, which ranks 25th in the league.

Even though the competition is tougher, Kidd thinks the faster-paced, higher-scoring style in the Western Conference suits his game.

"I love to run," Kidd said. "If I've got guys that are going to run with me, that's an interesting thing."

Sometimes it doesn't take much to change perceptions. Derek Fisher needed only 0.4 seconds. Before he tossed in that shot against the San Antonio Spurs in 2004, he never was considered a clutch player. With Kobe Bryant and Robert Horry on his team, he hardly got a chance to be. When a broadcaster recently called Fisher a guy who's known for hitting big shots, I had to laugh. I have been watching Fisher his entire career, and before that night in San Antonio and the memorable fourth quarter in Utah during last year's playoffs, no one ever would have described him that way.

The same could be said for our perception of Kidd before he went to the Nets. Now the Mavericks anticipate they're getting the winner, the man who triumphs in playoff series and takes his teams to the Finals. We'll find out soon enough if Kidd's woeful Western record is an accurate reflection of his impact, or if it's an early-career aberration that can be forgotten and buried under a flurry of championship confetti.

J.A. Adande is the author of "The Best Los Angeles Sports Arguments." He joined ESPN.com as an NBA columnist in August 2007 after 10 years with the Los Angeles Times. Click here to e-mail J.A.