Will the Prodigal Kidd return?

Updated: July 1, 2004, 10:22 AM ET
By Ray Ratto | Special to ESPN.com

(For your reading enjoyment and edification, please imagine that every paragraph of today's squalid little corner of La Internet begins with the helpful phrase, "We know the money doesn't fit, but ... ")

In an attempt to keep up with the Los Angeles Lakers, the New Jersey Nets are giving serious thought to reacquainting themselves with Square One. Kerry Kittles is potentially available. Kenyon Martin is potentially available. And Jason Kidd is potentially available. Why, the only thing the Nets don't have that the Lakers do is a coaching vacancy.

Jason Kidd
Could Jason Kidd pass up a chance to return to the Bay Area?
The Golden State Warriors, on the other hand, have been an inert jalopy parked sideways in the driveway, parts scattered across the front lawn and among the trees, as it has been for years. Their fans just enjoyed their 10th consecutive playoff-free season, and the 20th in their past 26 years. Their most recent draft choice to get them over the eighth-place hump is an 18-year-old Latvian 7-footer, who will be asked to replace Erick Dampier and perhaps Adonal Foyle as well.

In fact, Warrior fans are worried that Foyle might leave, unprecedented solicitousness for a backup center. You think the Lakers worry about Slava Medvedenko's whereabouts?

In other words, when you're the Warriors, someone else's misfortune is "Welcome To Our World, Jack."

Thus, the news that the Nets might be sold off for the parts as some sort of grand plan to keep owner Bruce Ratner from a bad case of diverticulitis strikes Warrior fans not as bad news for someone else, but an opportunity.

A weird, almost surely undoable opportunity, but an opportunity nonetheless.

One named Jason Kidd.

As in, The Prodigal Kidd.

Kidd is Oakland's, in ways that even Gary Payton isn't Oakland. Payton, after all, hasn't been truly Oakland's since he graduated from Skyline High back in the Eisenhower administration. In reality, he is so Oakland it makes your teeth bleed, but perception is reality, and the perception is that Payton's way old school, emphasis on "old."

Kidd not only did his elementary and high school work here, but jump-started the renaissance at Cal, and did it nearly a decade after Payton.

In other words, in the hardscrabble world of Warrior fandom (as in, "Push this tractor motor up that hill, over and over and over and ... "), Jason Kidd would energize the fan base in ways unexamined since Latrell Sprewell engaged a national debate by giving P.J. Carlesimo's uvula the business.

The Warriors might not win with Kidd, because, well, they're the Warriors. But their chances would be better, because Kidd has, at least in the short run, made his teams better. He made the Nets way better.

Along the way, though, he started reminding some folks of the face on the iodine bottle. Coaches tend to disappear on his watch, they whispered. Too rich for our blood, they all declared.

So he became an ex-Mav, then an ex-Sun, and now, perhaps, an ex-Net.

So why not a future ex-Warrior? Most Warriors over the past decade have dreamed of the day when they could be ex-Warriors, so why not?

Yes, yes, we know. "We know the money doesn't fit, but ..."

Still, Warrior fans can use some reason to hope, to be excited, to believe that some good player wants to be in Oakland rather than from Oakland. Even if it's just another cheap lie, like "The Warriors select Joe Smith," or "The Warriors select Todd Fuller," it still beats most of the other lies they've told.

Plus, it has the added bonus of potentially revitalizing the largest market in the United States without adequate NBA representation. David Stern may not care much about the Warriors, but he does care about market size, and say what you will about the Bay Area, it's still bigger than, say, Detroit.

Is this workable in any way? Again, we refer you to Paragraph One, and remind you that this is precisely the reason why the salary cap is a fraud perpetrated on the public.

But even if gravity isn't suspended, and there is no poaching to be done upon the New Jersey roster, Warrior fans can still look at the bright side and say, "Why, if the Nets walk themselves into hell, that's one more team we're better than . . . except that they're in the wrong conference, and we're still screwed. So, what kind of draft do you think it'll be next year?"

Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to ESPN.com

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