Jason Kidd, the future Hall-of-Fame point guard, is in the record books as the second all-time leader in assists and third all-time leader in three-pointers, steals and triple doubles.
After enduring 16 fruitless seasons, Kidd finally hoisted the elusive championship trophy last June with the Dallas Mavericks.
As the modern-day torchbearer of Magic Johnson’s and Oscar Robertson’s legacies of do-it-all guards, Kidd emits an aura of respect that few players and fans can ignore.
It’s difficult to argue against his contributions—not only to the Mavs’ championship run last year, but also to the league as a whole in the past decade and a half.
Unfortunately, those same contributions make it hard for Mavericks fans, and perhaps coach Rick Carlisle, to concede that it’s time to relegate Kidd to the bench.
Earlier this month, I wrote a piece regarding the floor general's value to the Mavericks squad, despite his age. Carlisle continues to trust Kidd for his defensive vigor, his calm demeanor and his demand for accountability from his fellow Mavericks.
The beauty is that Kidd can continue to capitalize on such dimensions of his game from the second unit. This almost seems illegal to print, but once Kidd spends too much time on the court this season, he will become a liability.
His production this season has dived considerably. After shooting a deadly 37.4 percent from behind the arc and possessing a 3.66 assist-to-turnover ratio in the recent postseason, Kidd has fallen to 28 percent from three-point land and has a mediocre 2.24 assist-to-turnover ratio.
After a lower-back injury that sidelined him for four games, it’s been even worse.
Through 34 minutes of play against the Mavericks’ 70-73 loss to the Lakers, Kidd shot 0-8 behind the long line to go with three turnovers and only two assists.
Two days later, he left Clipper guard Chauncey Billups wide open for a game-winning three in a Dallas defeat—a decision that many have scrutinized.
An uncharacteristic collection of six turnovers—including a potentially fatal one in the final seconds of a narrow 94-91 victory against Utah—left Dallas fans scratching their heads and asking, “What the heck happened?”
Simply put, he’s playing the way a 38-year-old veteran should be playing. This is not meant as disrespect, but rather a testament to his unbelievable, unexpected play from his recent seasons.
Nevertheless, the past is the past, and it’s time for the coaching staff to see that.
It makes it easier to write this knowing that newly acquired point guard Delonte West has something to prove. Arguably the Mavs’ most promising acquisition in the offseason, West cannot be underestimated, even considering his past off-court antics.
He has had flashes of brilliance this season, including an explosive 17-point first half against the Clippers. Unfortunately, that’s all he finished with. Carlisle has been reluctant to let West take the reins in the second half and have Kidd sit back and watch.
In terms of facilitating, West averages only an assist less than Kidd—despite playing for nearly 10 less minutes per game this season. His diligence on defense can be seen both on the court and on the stat sheet behind his 1.4 steals per game.
This season could also be the last chance for combo guard Rodrigue Beaubois to prove his mettle before management decides he has no place in this rotation. It’ll be difficult for him to do so in his limited 13.4 minutes per game.
Using Kidd sparingly in a consistent rotation of West, Beaubois and Jason Terry could ignite what has been an uncharacteristically sluggish Mavericks offense.
During Kidd’s injury, the Mavs had no problem beating four opponents by an average of 15 points, albeit it was against weaker teams.
Kidd has lost the sharpness of his game, but anyone would experience the same after finally reaching the top of a mountain after a 16-year climb. Yes, another ring would be nice, but if he called it quits today, he should be happy with what he has achieved.
No one should blame him for having such a mentality. He deserves the utmost respect as one of the greatest point guards of all time, but even the best are not invincible to the debilitating effects of age and fatigue.
It’s time to accept it.