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Rod Thorn: Jason Kidd was everything we weren’t

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Rod Thorn

When Jason Kidd and Rod Thorn enter the Naismith Hall of Fame together in September, there will be more stories about the Nets Golden Age, those years when Kidd took the Nets from the depths to the heights of the NBA. Most of those stories will more likely be told by Thorn, who is a natural story-teller, than the stoic Kidd.

Michael Scott of The Athletic got a head start on those stories Friday when he published excerpts from an interview he did with the former Nets GM and most of those stories were about Kidd’s arrival in New Jersey and how it changed the organization as well as the on-court product.

Scotto got Thorn to talk about how he saw Kidd fitting in with the Nets, how he was strong in all the areas where the Nets had been weak in his first year as GM, when the Nets won 26 games and weren’t exactly a model of good basketball.

“We just didn’t have a good chemistry, and we were a bad defensive team, we were a bad rebounding team, all the things that bad teams are. During the course of the year, you evaluate different things and try to figure out what you can do to try to make the team better....

“All of the things that we were not very good at, Kidd was good at. He was a great chemistry guy, a tremendous passer, a tremendous rebounder, and a great defensive player. He helped us in all the ways that we weren’t very good. You could tell in preseason practice we were going to be better. I don’t think anybody thought we’d turn out to be as good as we were.”

Thorn notes that he first talked to Jerry Colangelo, then Suns GM, at the draft combine in May 2001, two months before the deal went down and gauged that Colangelo had an interest in the 23-year-old Stephon Marbury, a budding star but decidedly not a leader. Then Kidd was arrested for domestic abuse and the stage was set.

He describes Kidd as being low maintenance ... until the end when he wanted out, a function of the Nets penny-pinching way under Bruce Ratner. It was a personal loss as well as a professional one.

“It was very hard because he not only was a player, but we had a great relationship. We were very friendly, and he made it known that he didn’t want to play here anymore. Under those conditions, you’re never going to get what you should get for a player. He was an older player, and we ended up deciding he wasn’t going to play for us anymore. We ended up getting what we could get. He went on and won a championship in Dallas. It worked out well for him and obviously not as well for the Nets.”

Thorn spoke to Scotto as well about the biggest mistake he made on a Draft Night when in 2001, he was able to secure three first rounders for Eddie Griffin who he had taken at No. 7 and who Houston really wanted. He took Richard Jefferson (over Troy Murphy) at No. 13, then Jason Collins at No. 18 before finally have to decide who to take at No. 23.

“Then at the 20-something pick that we got from Houston, we ended up taking (Brandon) Armstrong. The other guys were Agent Zero (Gilbert Arenas) and a kid from Southern California that I can’t remember his name (Jeff Trepagnier). Those were the three guys we were looking at with that pick. We said we’d take them in the order that if Armstrong got picked before we picked, we’d take Arenas. If he didn’t we’d take Armstrong.”

There’s a lot more — about how the game has changed, why he decided to leave, what his role is as an adviser to the Bucks, the hiring and firing of Byron Scott (but nothing on Vince Carter.)

As for the current regime trying to retrace those glory days, Thorn thinks Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson are doing an “admirable” job, noting that its not so much who they’ve brought in but what they’ve done off the court.

“I think they’ve changed the thinking around that organization. It’s much more positive now. They’ve got some good young talent, and they’ve done it even though they haven’t had their own first-round draft picks. They’ve made some good deals and have some good young players. I think that either next year or the year after they’re going to be good. I just like the way they’ve gone about it and the attitude they have there in what they’ve tried to do under pretty trying circumstances.”