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How the Nets almost lost Jason Kidd to the Spurs

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USA TODAY Sports

It's a bit of Nets history that Adrian Wojnarowski weaves Thursday morning, a detailed look at how the Spurs came very close to signing Jason Kidd in July 2003, just two weeks after San Antonio had beaten Kidd and the Nets in the NBA Finals. Only resistance to the move by Joumanna Kidd and the Nets agreement to sign Alonzo Mourning saved the day.

The plan was well-orchestrated, writes Woj, starting with R.C. Buford, the Spurs GM, making visits to New Jersey during the regular season to sit prominently near the court, his presence noticed by Kidd, but shockingly not by the Nets front office.

Then, the Spurs laid out a lavish itinerary for Kidd, escorted around the city by Tim Duncan.

The Nets never realized how badly he wanted to be wooed until it was too late, until Jason and his then-wife, Joumana, were emailing photos from the lavishly decorate hotel suite to Nets president Rod Thorn.

The Nets panicked. "They had a five-year plan to show him and we had no plan," said a Nets official. "San Antonio rolled out the red carpet and Jersey had nothing for him. We underestimated how much he wanted to be recruited, and probably got a little arrogant in thinking that he wouldn't leave. We dropped the ball."

But the Nets had a secret weapon, Joumanna, who thought she had a TV career in New York and didn't want to sacrifice the top US market for the then-38th biggest market. Kidd relented, but exacted his price.

Alonzo Mourning was a free agent, but one in need of a kidney transplant. Kidd thought he had something left and pushed him on the Nets. "For Thorn and ownership, an 11th-hour dinner meeting with Kidd left them little choice: The Nets gave Mourning a four-year, $22.6 million contract – much more money than Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was willing to commit."

Kidd and Joumanna ultimately divorced in a tabloid-rich melodrama. Mourning tried to play but couldn't. After Kenyon Martin went packing, Mourning publicly demanded to be bought out, and when the Nets wouldn't meet his price, he simply stopped playing. Thorn saved the day by trading his contract to Toronto for Vince Carter, but the Nets never fully recovered. And says Woj, Kidd always regretted not leaving.