Mavs Donuts: Tip Your BBIQ Crown To Kidd
DONUT 1: Nowitzki is prying open the eyes of NBA onlookers, revealing a fact most in the Dallas area have been well aware of for some time: he is a star, among the elite of his generation.
Jeff Van Gundy used the word "legendary" to describe Nowitzki's performance in Game 4 of the Conference Finals. He was not mistaken, or led astray by hyperbole. Dirk has poured a foundation over the course of years to warrant his legend status. Those now turning his way have not been deceived by a singular event.
Without stealing from the accolades the big German has earned, is it possible we're now losing sight of, or taking for granted another all-time legend on the Mavericks' roster?
DONUT 2: "He's what you want out of a professional athlete, did everything on the floor for his team," Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. "Nothing he does surprises me … he battles and competes against whoever he has in front of him and that's what you want. He's a terrific player."
Brooks was referring to Jason Kidd, a legend in his own right.
While many question whether this magical season will be remembered as the final push for redemption, for posterity, for a the immortality of a championship before the window of opportunity slams shut on a veteran Dallas team, they primarily focus this sentiment on the team's best player, Dirk Nowitzki.
Opportunities can be fleeting, fickle in their approach, and at 32, this may be Dirk's best chance to reach his ultimate goal. However, with a game predicated on skills based outside of raw athleticism, there's reason to believe Nowitzki can perform at or near his current levels for years to come.
On the other hand …
DONUT 3: Jason Kidd is 38, and though he continues to reinvent himself as a player, leaning away from a reliance on quickness, speed or deceptive athletic abilities to become a reliable spot-up shooter (note the fact that he has hit 39.5 percent of his 3-pointers since joining the Mavs in 2008 after having never had a season above 37 percent, and that came in 1997 when he split a season between Dallas and Phoenix), a rugged defender, and a brilliant architect who remains as capable as ever of orchestrating an offense, a team, with prescient precision; but time comes for us all.
DONUT 4: "He does so many things that cannot be quantified on the stats sheet," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "Just from having a calming influence, a knack for hitting big shots and finding the window to deliver the ball at the right time to the right guy. And defensively … he's a guy that's directing traffic out there for us."
DONUT 5: Make no mistake, Nowitzki is the best player on this team, but, as Carlisle notes, Jason Kidd is the man controlling the game, protecting its flow and directing its course. In doing so, and charmed by the wisdom of his 17-year career, he's sturdily pointed the bow of the Dallas ship squarely towards what may be his last and greatest hope for the one thing that has eluded him, a championship.
Beneath the ever-present calm of his exterior, you can find evidence of his unwillingness to let this moment not be capitalized upon. Perhaps this was no more evident than in the proceedings of Game 4 in Oklahoma City, when Kidd made certain the ball found its way to a surging Nowitzki when needed, before imposing his own will on a younger, more athletic Thunder team.
DONUT 6: Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were supposed to be the type of players to give the 16-year-elder Kidd fits; far quicker, blessed with the endless energy of youth, and holding the advantage of bountiful physical tools firing at peak levels.
Yet, Kidd took his turn defending both, playing an integral role in holding both relatively in check.
It was these players he abused in the final minute of overtime in Game 4 to ensure Dirk's "legendary" performance would not go to waste.
DONUT 7: In Game 4, with 1:01 to play, it was Kidd who stripped Durant of the ball in a game tied at 105. Only 21 seconds later, it was again Kidd who used Westbrook's spectacular leaping ability against him by luring him into the air with a pump-fake.
"I knew the ball was gonna end up to me," Kidd said of that play. "Dirk has a little trust in me, and I felt it was my job to be able to knock down that shot. They kind of went to him late, so Westbrook had to contest my shot. I thought about jumping into him, but I just reloaded and shot it. People were talking about it reminded them of the game in Boston, so I just got lucky that the ball went in."
It wasn't luck.
He did what he usually does, one way or the other.
DONUT 8: Kidd finished that game with 17 points, seven assists, five rebounds and four steals and effectively put the game away. In the clinching Game 5, he scored two points, with seven rebounds and 10 assists. For the series, he was at 9.6 points, 8.6 assists and about a 163 in BBIQ.
"I'm proud of Jason Kidd," Dirk said. "I mean, the way he battles on defense, the floor game he leads for us every night, the steals he gets … I tip my hat to him every night, the way he competes."
DONUT 9: With the eager hands of time trying to pry the game from him, Kidd tastes the significance of the opportunity at hand, and though he keeps telling Fish that retirement is not currently on the docket, regardless of the possible lockout situation, time isn't turning away.
"Everybody asks questions about the age and all that other stuff," Carlisle said, "but the thing I'd say to anybody is, ‘Never underestimate greatness.'"
DONUT 10: Game 4 will be famous for Dallas having come back from 15 down with five minutes remaining. But in Game 5, Dallas did largely the same thing. It's not coincidence.
"Everybody's calm,'' Kidd says of the Mavs in those situations. "The crowd might be a little uneasy, especially when we're at home, but the guys don't panic."
DONUT 11: Everybody in the Mavs organization is vocal and united in wanting to beat the Heat and win a championship for Dirk. And for themselves, too. But there is the same feeling for Kidd. He's been close twice, in two NBA Finals tries with the Nets. He's got Mavs ties since being drafted here in 1994 and winning Co-Rookie of the Year, and then forging this Hall-of-Fame career.
We all know that Dirk walked away from the WCF trophy. Kidd didn't exactly take it home and pose for pictures with it, either.
DONUT 12: Jason Kidd's greatness isn't in question; neither is the deep hunger carrying him through younger, faster players. Perhaps we're merely seeing the breadth of his immense intelligence for the game wonder outside the lines of the court in understanding that these prospects don't come around often, and make no promises of return.
The Dallas Mavericks are now one game away from the Finals. Another chance is at hand.
In the face of an hourglass with precious little sand remaining, one legend still standing in these playoffs who may need to act on it the most is Jason Kidd, and he's doing just that.
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