the pain of watching mavs-spurs

watched the dallas-san antonio game earlier today (sunday march 23 ’08). a painful experience…a painful experience that had nothing to do with watching dirk crumple to the floor in agony from having his leg bend under him in ways legs aren’t supposed to get bent (after a nifty defensive play). the pain didn’t come from watching manu get his mouth bloodied up for him in the undercard match by jerry stackhouse either.

no, the pain came from watching jason kidd do nothing for most of the game. and by nothing, i mean no penetration whatsoever. he had some nice, lofting passes right to the spot where guys running on the wings could gather them in in traffic, but to watch him time and again meander around the three point line and harmlessly flip the ball off to other guys (josh howard, jason terry) who were themselves hanging around the arc, and who then had to work create a shot for themselves by driving in heavy traffic? well, that hurt.

at the very end kidd finally seemed willing, reluctantly, to shoot the ball, and after an ugly brick made a couple of nice threes. but it was too little too late…it came after too many trips on the offensive end where he made clear to the spurs d that there was no need to worry too much about what he was going to do. that’s part of why the spurs were able to go on a 19-0 run in the 2nd half…yeah, you read that right…a 19-0 run…that’s what happens when a pro defense figures out they’re playing five-on-four, especially when the four doesn’t include the point guard.

when dallas traded away youth and speed (harris), length and d (diop), and a mountain of luxury tax cash for jkidd, what everyone who said they liked the trade talked about was dallas’ need for toughness and leadership. but it’s hard to be a leader when you don’t much matter on the floor, and kidd looked anything but tough today…he looked meek. in fact, devin harris was pretty tough himself…he has that cockiness of someone who has athletic superiority – in his case speed, and not a little durability and strength – and is about to break you off some.

for kidd to make a difference for dallas, he’s going to have to start penetrating, and for that penetration to cause defenses to have to shift when he does it, he’s going to need to finish himself from time to time…both of those are things harris used to do for the mavs, regularly. it’s what tony parker does for the spurs, chris paul does for the hornets, steve nash does for the suns, deron williams does for the jazz, ai does for the nuggets, jarrett jack and brandon roy and steve blake do for the trail blazers, kobe bryant, jordan farmar, and even derek fisher do for the lakers, and about two-thirds of the warriors roster does for them. and oh yeah, it’s what harris is still doing, only now for the nets.

but no sign of either thing was on display from kidd on sunday, a day on which he confirmed to michelle tafoya that his famously control freak coach (my words, not his) had told him to do whatever he wanted with the ball…looks like what he wanted was to let someone else control the game.

it’s funny…while writing this just now, my wife just asked me if something tragic had happened…when i asked her why she asked, she said that i had a look on my face like someone important to me had just gotten run over…not that kidd’s important to me, per se, but great pro hoops does kind of matter to me more than it should, and as much as i’m cool seeing dallas lose, it’s sad to see someone who was once such a force of nature on the court turn so meek…

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