Sunday, December 16, 2012

Jason Kidd’s basketball odyssey continues

Regrettably, we no longer get to see the nightly highlights of the mind-boggling passes that Jason Kidd used to make on the regular. The guy who would make his opponents look stupid with his superior court vision, exceptional ball-handling displays and passes that seem to reach his teammates from unbelievable angles has all but retired.

Instead we are exposed to a different Kidd these days. Now in his 19th season in the league, Kidd is no longer a regular on the sports highlight shows but if you watch him during a game you will see why he is still an amazing player.

The “new” Kidd was on display when the New York Knicks played the Los Angeles Lakers on December 13th. Although Kidd no longer makes the plays that most sports fans love to see, he makes all of the plays that coaches and true basketball aficionados love.

Kidd seems to create a ‘culture of passing’ wherever he goes. Guys who aren’t known for giving up the ball seem more willing to make the extra pass when Kidd is around.

Although Kidd actually starts at the two for the Knicks, many of his teammates will pass him the ball on the break before they pass it to point guard Raymond Felton.

The reason for that is simple. Anyone who has played with Kidd before or seen him play knows that if you get him the ball he will get it back to you and usually in position to make an easy bucket.

Kidd loves to reward his teammates for making good plays and they know that he can see things on the court that no one else can see.

A perfect example of this occurred during the first quarter of the Knicks’ December 13th game versus the Lakers.

Carmelo Anthony was dribbling the ball down the court on the break. Anthony quickly passed the ball to Kidd who was streaking down the other side of the court.  

Kidd set up on the left side of the arc while Anthony drifted towards him. Kidd saw that his own man was playing off him expecting him to go baseline so Kidd moved to the top of the key and simultaneously picked off Anthony’s man while delivering the ball back to Anthony with a behind-the-back pass.

Due to Kidd’s astute basketball acumen, Anthony was perfectly positioned to hit a wide-open three which he did effortlessly. Its plays like this that make it hard for coaches to keep Kidd off the court and makes his teammates so eager to look for him when he is on the floor with them.

Now don’t get me wrong, Kidd has made plays like this all of his career. After 19 years in the league though, Kidd no longer has the blazing speed he once had or the quickness that made him such a stout defender.

The reason Kidd is able to stay so productive though is because he still plays the game much faster in his head than his opponents and teammates do.

Although time has robbed him of some of the gifts that made him so explosive during his more formative years in the league he is still able to stay two steps ahead of his opposition because he is one of the best at “seeing” things on the court before they happen.

The other thing that helps Kidd continue to be effective is his willingness to adapt.

When Kidd entered the league his jump shot was virtually non-existent and for a long time Kidd failed to make any significant improvements in this area. Over the latter third of his career though, Kidd has improved his shooting ability to offset his declining physical skills.

So much so that he is shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor overall, shooting over 50 percent from three-point range and shooting over 90 percent from the free throw line. None of those numbers would have been fathomable ten years ago.

Kidd used to post triple-doubles on a regular basis earlier in his career because of his timely passes and aggressive rebounding. Seeing Kidd operate on the floor now though, you wouldn’t guess that he is averaging career-lows in rebounds and assists.

Somehow he is still averaging nearly two steals per game though.

The rebounding and assist numbers are understandable considering he is logging less than 30 minutes per game but the steals numbers are amazing. It seems that his steals would be lower too but his ability to anticipate things before they happen has sufficiently compensated for his declining skills.

Another thing that seems to follow Kidd around is winning. Kidd knows how to win and whether he starts or comes off the bench he affects his teammates with his winning ways.

The Knicks are among the league leaders when most people didn’t expect them to even be the best team in their own division this year. Not saying that he is the sole reason for them winning this year but it doesn’t hurt to have him on your roster.

And as long as Kidd can help a team win games he will continue to be a valuable asset. If the Knicks win a championship this season then it’s possible that New York could be the final stop in Kidd’s lengthy basketball journey.

The way Kidd is playing though, that’s not a given.

Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and an NBA Blogger for The Sport Mentalist 2. He is also a Sports Reporter for Pro Sports Lives. He can be contacted at and be sure to follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist.

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