FanPost

NBA Disappointment: Jason Kidd's Final Years in New Jersey

As we draw closer to Opening Night, we've got another theme to dig into to. This one's all about the biggest disappointment(s) in franchise history. The Nets franchise has had a lot of disappointment, with Jason Kidd's exit from the team being chief among them.

Again, my apologies for getting this theme post in late.

Remember this?

This was the end of that version of the Lakers Dynasty as they got steamrolled by the Pistons in five games. That offseason was a drastic one for the Lakers, as Shaq got traded to Miami, Karl Malone retired, Gary Payton left the team, and Phil Jackson wen on a sabbatical. The Lakers finished 34-48 in Year One without O'Neal.

We're gonna jump ahead to the 2006-2007 season. It was another frustrating one for Kobe Bryant as he was stuck in basketball purgatory following the Shaq trade following Los Angeles' 2004 Finals loss to Detroit. He was his usual excellent self in 06-07, as he finished fifth in PER, 11th in Win Shares per 48 and won the scoring title. Unfortunately for him, the Lakers got knocked out of the First Round again by the Phoenix Suns, this time going down in five games. When asked about what he wanted Laker management to do, Bryant said:

The Lakers did have a chance to get better in the short term that year. But they famously (or infamously, if you subscribe to Bryant's POV) refused to trade Andrew Bynum for Jason Kidd. Which led to this:

After this, Bryant asked for a trade. It didn't happen, the Lakers got off to a great start in 2007-2008, traded for Pau Gasol to compliment Bynum and went on to live happily ever after.

On the other side of the country in the Spring-Summer of 2004 was Jason Kidd and the New Jersey Nets. After being a consistent title threat for three seasons, their run ended with a whimper. After winning a triple overtime thriller (shout out to Brian Scalabrine) vs. the Detroit Pistons in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference SemiFinals to take a 3-2 series lead, the Nets lost the next two games (including Game 7 when an injured Kidd got shut out & the Nets lost by 21) and the "Championship Window" was effectively slammed shut.

It got slammed shut when the Nets moved Kenyon Martin to Denver following the Pistons loss, which reportedly angered Kidd enough to call around the league exploring his trade options. It got worse when Kerry Kittles got moved for a second round draft pick. In general, when teams rebuild/reload, they do it through the draft. But it didn't work out that way, as Antoine Wright, Marcus Williams, Josh Boone, and Sean Williams didn't help Jersey much.

The Nets did their best to remain a viable contender, as they got Vince Carter from Toronto for nothing (the excellent RaptorsHq has more on the disappointment that was Vince Carter). They were certainly watchable with Kidd, Carter and Richard Jefferson, but they weren't title contenders. They made the playoffs every year, but they could only make it as far as the Eastern Conference SemiFinals.

Kidd and Bryant's paths crossed in early 2007. Much like Kobe in 2006-2007, Kidd was itching to compete for a Championship. And much like Kobe, Kidd was stuck in the "good enough to be a playoff team, but nowhere near good enough to be a NBA Finals contender," aka basketball purgatory. There had been rumors of Kidd being traded before, but it seemed like everything was in place for a trade to happen. You had the disgruntled superstar who wanted to get his first title (Kidd), the young gun who was considered to be a franchise-changing player (Bynum), and the disgruntled superstar who was desperate to reenter the title chase (Bryant). The Lakers kept Bynum and Kidd stayed in New Jersey. Unfortunately for us, there wasn't a happy ending as the Nets didn't become title contenders.

It all fell apart in the 2007-2008 season. The Nets were mired in mediocrity and Kidd apparently had had enough. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo at the time:

In an act of defiance that has been building for most of the season, Kidd, 34, has grown irritated over his belief that the franchise no longer is chasing greatness while his chance for a championship closes

If that weren't damning enough, there were thoughts that Kidd thought quit on the team. According to an advanced scout who spoke to Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix:

"I don't really think he has lost a step," an advance scout says. "It just looks like he's not trying that hard. He still has a lot left and if he is traded, whatever team gets him, look out."

For what it's worth, in one of Kidd's final games as a Net, he got a triple double.

On February 19, 2008, the Kidd Era officially ended as Kidd was sent to Dallas for Devin Harris, first round picks that eventually turned into Ryan Anderson (there's another disappointing Nets moment) & Jordan Crawford (who was moved for Damion James; he's also famous for his hidden dunk on LeBron and this bit of Twitter hilarity). When asked about why he decided to move Kidd, Nets President Rod Thorn had this to say:

"I know Jason probably as well as anybody and, over the course of time, it became very evident that his heart wasn’t in it. With him and with the type of player he is, if his heart isn’t in it, then he’s not the same player.

"It became evident to me that his heart wasn’t in it anymore."

Now that we've discussed everything leading up to Kidd being traded (with a guest appearance by the Lakers), why was this so disappointing? Take the jump and we'll try to answer that question.

Kidd was and is one of the best Nets of all time, but there's no doubt that his ending left a sour taste in a lot of people's mouths. I don't like to question an athlete's effort level because I don't know what's in their hearts, their poor play could be the product of an extended slump, and I just think the "he needs to show more FIRE & GRIT" type analysis is hackneyed. But, their might've been something to the "Kidd quit on the Nets" belief.

2007-2008

Jason Kidd in New Jersey

Jason Kidd in Dallas

Minutes per Game

37.2 34.9

True Shooting %

48.3 53.6

Assist rate

67.79 79.14

Turnover rate

23.6 23.2

Usage rate

18.9 16.1

Rebound rate

12.6 10.7

PER

15.7 18.4

Win Shares per 48

.064 .157

Wins Produced per 48

.199 .301

We do see a difference in Kidd's production. Kidd shot the ball less, but was more efficient with his shot (though not particularly great) as he began to settle into his spot up three point shooter role that he currently occupies today. He was one of the league's best passers even when he was unhappy being a Net, and that passing excellence didn't change once he returned to Dallas. He ended up providing more value to Dallas than Devin Harris did as a Mav and a Net, but the end result was still the same for Dallas: a First Round loss. Maybe Kidd was just going through one of those long slumps (see why I hate saying whether guys quit?).

This is strictly my personal opinion, but I'd rather watch my team blow everything up and start over immediately instead of watching hem slowly decline into mediocrity as the Nets did following the Pistons loss. They could only get as far as the SemiFinals, and even though Kidd and Carter were fun to watch, it sucked in a way because you knew that they were only gonna get as far as the Second Round before the real title contenders would finish them off. As a fan, I'd rather blow everything up and suck for a couple years while my team amasses enough assets to make a play for a star player (see the acquisition of Deron Williams). We're better off going all the way to the bottom and rebuilding that way instead of being perpetually stuck in the middle while you're waiting for moments that never come.

The way Kidd left was probably the most disappointing part of it all. It's one thing for a player to be up and dealt. It's another to hear one of your favorite players say they don't wanna play for your favorite organization anymore. The "migraines" were embarrassing, but when the franchise savior says they no longer want anything to do with your franchise, it makes the dark days a little darker.

Postscript: I know the obvious answer to "biggest disappointment in Nets history would be the loss of Dr. J, but that's before my time and I wanted to focus on the Nets' recent history.

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