Note: We're in the non-active portion part of the offseason, so all the NBA sites are doing posts on the best trades in franchise history. Head to the mothership to keep up with all the posts from around the network. Here is my selection for the best trade in Nets history.
Photo from Yahoo Sports
It was December 26, 1996. After two and one half seasons of losing, bickering amongst teammates, and appearances in the gossip section of the newspaper, the end was here. Jason Kidd was traded from the Dallas Mavericks to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Sam Cassell, A.C. Green and Michael Finley. While Kidd was leaving an organization that had missed the playoffs for six consecutive seasons for a new team that made the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons, Kidd was disappointed about his stay in Dallas:
"Look at the Utahs and Seattles, they've been together for years. We never had that opportunity," Kidd said. "And now we can't have that opportunity. We were never given a fair shot, but we have to go on."
Photo from Bright Side of the Sun
When he got to Phoenix, things began to look up professionally and personally for the former Rookie of the Year. While in Phoenix, the Suns made the playoffs every season and eclipsed the 50 win mark three times. He was also nominated for the NBA Sportsmanship Award and was one of the most popular people in Phoenix along with his wife Joumana.
Then everything changed on January 18, 2001. The night before, Jason Kidd scored 15 points and dished out seven assists in a Phoenix Suns victory over the Seattle SuperSonics. However, on that Thursday evening, Kidd was arrested for striking his wife Joumana in the mouth after an argument over feeding their son. In a press conference following his arrest, Kidd had this to say:
There is an issue as a family and personally. ... I have issues that I have to work on. There was an incident that took place last night involving my wife. I love my wife. I love my family. This is a situation that is embarrassing to me, to my family, my friends and also to the Phoenix Suns. I apologize for that and at this time that is pretty much all I can say.
Kidd returned to the team on January 26 in Boston. This game was famous because every time Kidd touched the ball, the Fleet Center crowd booed him unmercifully. Kidd had another stellar season, as he was named a starter to the Western Conference All-Star team, finished First team All-NBA & All-NBA defense and finished eighth in the MVP balloting.
Photo from Sports Illustrated
The other part of this story actually begins in October of 1997. At the time, Kevin Garnett had just signed his massive 7 year, $128 million contract extension and all seemed well in Minneapolis. The Timberwolves were coming off of their first playoff appearance in franchise history, and featured a strong nucleus of Garnett, Tom Gugliotta, and a Brooklyn born point guard named Stephon Marbury. Stephon had a solid rookie season, as he averaged 15 points and eight assists a game as he finished second to Philadelphia's Allen Iverson in the Rookie of the Year balloting. Marbury would go on to average 17 & 8 in the 97-98 as Minnesota lost a Game 5 to Seattle.
The problems began to arise when the team offered Marbury the maximum contract allowable following the lockout, which was six years and $70.9 million. Marbury refuaed to sign the extension, & head coach Flip Saunders believed there was a specific reason as to why:
"I think they're good friends, but Stephon indicated he had a tough time (with) the money KG was making, and when he signed his contract they'd still have the largest discrepancy as far as my 71 to his 126, and he just felt it was going to be very difficult for him, and he felt he was on equal terms," Saunders said.
With Marbury refusing to sign, the Timberwolves traded him to the New Jersey Nets on March 12, 1999 in a three team trade that sent Terrell Brandon to Minnesota & Sam Cassell to Milwaukee. When asked about why he wanted to leave Minnesota, Marbury reportedly told NBC's Bob Costas in a halftime interview:
"I wanted to be happy. You can't knock a person for wanting to be happy and wanting to go back home."
Of course, Stephon wasn't actually back in New York City, but New Jersey was the next best thing & he immediately signed his maximum extension with the Nets.
Photo from Sports Illustrated
As it turns out, the homecoming did not go well for Starbury. After starting 3-16 before Marbury's acquisition, the Nets were unable to dig themselves out of the hole and finished with a 16-34 record. They didn't finish with John Calipari, who was fired but that was the least of New Jersey's problems. Jayson WIlliams broke his right leg against the Atlanta Hawks in April 1999, & unfortunately, he wasn't able to recover and had to retire from the NBA.
Even without Williams, Marbury continued to play at a high level. Steph averaged close to 20 points and 8 assists in the 99-2000 & 2000-2001 seasons. He was named to the 2001 All Star Game & played a huge part in the East's comeback win.
[Classic] NBA 2001 All Star Game Highlights Part 2 (via VCmysterio619)
*Note: This is still my favorite All-Star game in any sport ever.
He followed that up with a 50 point gem vs. the Los Angeles Lakers.
Stephon Marbury Greatest Games:Career High 50 Points vs LA Lakers (2001) (via Larry Bird)
Even with Marbury's improving play & a weak Eastern Conference, the Nets weren't able to contend for a playoff spot. Of course, Marbury didn't help matters with his seemingly bad attitude towards his teammates.
All of this leads us to June of 2001. Even with multiple 50 win seasons & playoff appearances, Suns CEO Jerry Colangelo wasn't happy with his team's fortunes, and coupled with Kidd's domestic violence incident, traded him to New Jersey for Marbury. Even though they had very different styles of playing basketball, they were very similar in other respects. Both men let their personal feelings get in the way of what was best for their respective teams. They also forced their ways to teams they felt would best maximize their talents and financial opportunities. And lastly, both men had disagreements with teammates that bled onto the court and adversely effected their teams' success.
Now that we've done a little background on Kidd and Marbury, let's take the jump and see how they performed for their new teams and whether or not this was the best New Jersey Nets trade ever.
How did they do in the 2001-2002 season? Let's get into the numbers:
Minutes per Game
True Shooting %
Win Shares per 48
Wins Produced per 48
Player Efficiency Rating
The great thing about Kidd was that he was a poor shooter (& that's being kind), but was splendid in every other area imaginable. He was the best rebounding guard in the league as Rod Thorn alluded to, lived up to his reputation as one of the league's best passers, and along with the return of Kerry Kittles, Kenyon Martin and the draft day acquisition of Richard Jefferson, the Nets improved their defensive rating by six points, which allowed them to win the Atlantic Division, their first in the NBA. And even though I generally hate this maxim, Kidd's influence was beyond the numbers he put up. When he joined New Jersey, it felt like everything changed. For the seasons before Kidd arrived, the Nets were viewed as a laughingstock around the league. They never won an Atlantic Division title, hadn't been in playoff contention since 1998, were viewed as second class citizens to their neighbors across the river (that still is true today, to some extent), were thought to be cursed & the only real national exposure they had gotten was Stephon Marbury's showing in the 4th quarter of the 2001 All Star Game. With Kidd, none of the Nets past failures, lack of coverage in New York compared to the sideshow that was the New york Knicks or the dwindling fan attendance mattered. The Nets were interesting, played an aesthetically pleasing (read: fast paced) style of basketball, & well run. They didn't get the backpages often, but Kidd and the Nets were able to make it all the way to the NBA Finals before getting swept by the Shaq & Kobe Lakers.
On Phoenix's side of the equation, the Marbury acquisition didn't work out as they had hoped. While Marbury continued to average 20 & 8, the Suns changed coaches (two) more times than they made the playoffs with Steph (one). While the offense did get better with Marbury, their defense took a major dive. It was always known that Matbury was a poor defender, and when he replaced a ++ defender in Kidd, the Suns defensive efficiency got worse by six points. Despite the suckiness on the court, Marbury did manage to entertain.
Of course one year does not a great trade make, so let's look at how they did during their tenures in New Jersey & Phoenix.
Jason Kidd as a Net
Stephon Marbury as a Sun
Minutes per Game
True Shooting %
Win Shares per 48
Wins Produced per 48
Player Efficiency Rating
Kidd was able to maintain his high level of play throughout most of his tenure as a Net. He ended up leading the Nets in all time three pointers made (a product of leading the franchise in attempts), assists & was a force on the defensive side of the ball. As a Net, Kidd led the team to 4 Atlantic Division titles & 7 playoff appearances. In the playoffs, Kidd provided a lot of great moments for the Nets fanbase.
Jason Kidd 30 pts & 10 ast vs Lakers - 2002 NBA Finals - Gm 3 - 6/9/02 (via JazzBasketball1)
Jason Kidd Game Winner (via JustinDefeo)
The team didn't do well, but Marbury did on an individual level (a familiar refrain for Starbury). Marbury continued to average 20 & 8, but the Suns underachieved in a strong Western Conference. With a team that featured Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion & Joe Johnson, the fact that they couldn't achieve more success was a major disappointment. At least Steph had one great moment as a Sun:
Stephon Marbury wins the game at the buzzer (via PHXMaka)
Why is this the best trade ever?
I think the answer is two-fold. The first reason is the actual on-court production and playing styles between Kidd & Marbury. Earlier, I mentioned that Kidd and Marbury had very different styles of play, and when we look at the Nets roster, I don't believe Marbury would have been successful with that group. The term "scoring guard" is commonly used as a pejorative to describe Russell Westbrook in today's NBA, but Marbury would fit that definition almost to a tee. He was a player that was at his best when he was going for his shot and attacking the basket. Looking at that roster, we see that Kerry Kittles was making his return after missing the previous season due to injury, Richard Jefferson was entering his first NBA season and Kenyon Martin wasn't the type of player that could get off a good shot at any time (and he still isn't). Putting a veteran like Kidd with that young group was a great decision by Rod Thorn & Nets management. Kidd is and was a player that can go a whole game without shooting and still be very productive. With that group, Kidd was able to set his teammates and find them good shot opportunities*. Kidd was a major step up over Marbury on the defensive & rebounding parts of the game, and with a team that didn't employ a superstar scorer during Kidd's first couple of years in Jersey, their defense was a major factor in their two Eastern Conference Championships. And for all of Kidd's bad shooting, he shot almost similarly to Marbury and when you take into account Kidd consistently keeping his teammates involved in the offense,
The other reason, and admittedly it's a line of reasoning I'm loath to using but applies here (see the end of this post for my reasoning), is team success. The Nets had essentially been in the NBA wilderness since they moved to the NBA from the ABA, having only made it out of the First Round once in the 25 seasons they had been members of the NBA. With Kidd, the Nets enjoyed their best success since their time in the ABA. Even though the Nets didn't win a Championship with Kidd & were legitimate title contenders for only a short period of time, they were consistently entertaining and competing for playoff births. For a franchise that experienced so many failures, hardships & general embarrassments, for those of us who weren't alive in the 1970s, seeing a team that was enjoyable and watchable every night instead of the days when MJ or the Knicks came to town was a new and ultimately unforgettable experience.
*Kenyon Martin probably owes a large portion of the max contract Denver gave him to Jason Kidd.
Bonus content: Where are they now
Jason Kidd: Kidd ended his Nets career on an ugly note, as he was traded to Dallas for Devin Harris. The ugly part came when Kidd started to experience "migraines." Kidd refound his game and was a key contributor to Dallas' Championship run in 2011. He signed with the Knicks this past offseason and then got arrested for drunk driving.
New Jersey Brooklyn Nets: After Kidd left, the Nets went right back into the cellar. They reached their lowest point in 2009-2010, when they finished with a 12-70 record. They were able to use the third pick from that draft, Derrick Favors, & Devin Harris to acquire Deron Williams. Now that the Nets have left New Jersey and have turned over the roster, they hope to be a contender in the Eastern Conference & become the basketball power in the tri-state area.
The Dallas Mavericks: They won the Championship in 2010-2011 thanks in large part to Jason Kidd. They were hoping to acquire Deron Williams via free agency, but were unsuccessful in doing so. The rumor du jour is that Dallas will be making a run at Lakers Center Dwight Howard in the 2012-2013 offseason.
The Minnesota Timberwolves: Even after the Marbury trade, they weren't able to progress as a franchise. They never made it out of the First Round until they acquired Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell in the 2003 offseason. Canis Hoopus has more on this. Currently, the Wolves are anchored by the amazing Kevin Love, the developing Nikola Pekovic and the young point guard as they hope to establish themselves in the Western Conference.
The Phoenix Suns: After moving Marbury, they used the money they saved to sign Steve Nash. With Nash at the point guard & Mike D'Antoni coaching, "Seven Seconds or Less" entered our vernacular as the Suns played a beautiful style of basketball and were very successful in doing so. The only problem for the Suns was that they could never advance past the Western Conference Finals. Nash left the Suns for the Lakers this past offseason and was replaced by Goran Dragic.
The New York Knicks: With the removal of Marbury, the Knicks began to gameplan for the 2010 offseason, with the prize being LeBron James. Of course, it didn't work out that way as James pissed off seemingly everyone outside of Miami by joining the Heat. The Knicks settled for Amare Stoudemire and later traded for disgruntled Denver Nuggets All-star Carmelo Anthony. They still rule the New York market, but that might change depending on how they & the Brooklyn Nets play over the next couple of seasons.
Stephon Marbury: There's a lot of stuff to cover here. After the Suns continued to struggle, Steph actually returned home, as Phoenix shipped him to New York for salary cap relief. While a Knick, Marbury was always good for a quote. The Knicks had broken their mini playoff dry spell with Steph before getting unceremoniously swept out of the playoffs by Kidd and the Nets (Whiny Tim and all that mess). After missing the playoffs again, all hell broke loose. It got uglier from there before the Knicks finally bought him out. Then came this. Then this. Then this. And finally,
Beijing Won CBA Championship (via happy6729)
Sometimes there are happy endings after all.