Jason Kidd played only six more games as a Net than he did for Dallas. But Kidd is truly the first real Net to enter the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Jason Kidd is set to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 6, a week from now.
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Kidd played 19 NBA seasons with four teams — two tours with the Dallas Mavericks, parts of seven seasons with the New Jersey Nets, almost five years with the Phoenix Suns and his final season with the New York Knicks in 2012-13.
The record books show Kidd played eight seasons in Dallas and seven with the Nets. But the same record shows Kidd played slightly more often as a Net — 506 games — than he did as a Maverick, with 500 games.
But this one is an alley-oop slam dunk — Jason Kidd is the first player to enter the shrine in Springfield, Mass., on the strength of what he did with the franchise that is now known as the Brooklyn Nets, but has had iterations as the New Jersey Americans, New York Nets and New Jersey Nets.
Seriously. It’s not even close.
Granted, Kidd’s crowning achievement — an NBA title — came with Dallas as a 37-year-old in 2011. The closest he came while with New Jersey was back-to-back losses in the NBA Finals.
But in terms of impact, Kidd’s a Net. Period.
Six of his 10 career appearances in the All-Star Game were as a member of the New Jersey Nets. Seven of his nine All-Defensive seasons were in the red, blue and argyle. Half of his six All-NBA nods were in East Rutherford.
First true Net in the Hall
So, about that “first true Net” in the Hall of Fame statement.
The record shows the Nets with nine Hall of Famers until Kidd and Cheeks (also a former Net, however briefly) are inducted.
But none of the other 10 enshrinees are identified first and foremost as a member of the Nets. Kidd stands alone.
But the world knows Barry as a Golden State Warrior. Erving is a 76er.
Drazen Petrovic came the closest, but he was killed in an automobile accident after just his fourth NBA season and was inducted much more for being one of Europe’s greatest players.
Bernard King began his career as a Net. He ended his career as a Net. But he went into the Hall of Fame much more on the strength of the 12 years in between with the New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors (yes, there was that Utah Jazz thing, but it’s best just to not speak of it).
Getting back to Cheeks, he made 35 appearances at the end of the 1992-93 season, signed as a 36-year-old after the Atlanta Hawks opted to pay him $600,000 not to play for them.
He came in very handy, as it turns out, considering Kenny Anderson went down with a broken wrist not long after Cheeks came to Jersey. But 35 games doth not a “Hall of Fame Net” make.
Again, Jason Kidd stands alone in that regard, as much for what he accomplished individually as what he helped a downtrodden franchise achieve.
Great expectations? Hardly
When Kidd arrived in New Jersey in July 2001, it was in an exchange of All-Star point guards. The Phoenix Suns got Stephon Marbury from the Nets, along with Johnny Newman and Soumaila Samake. The Nets added Kidd.
OK, Chris Dudley was in the deal as well, but as nothing but salary filler. Dudley didn’t even get to training camp before he was jettisoned on waivers less than a month after the trade.
The Nets were not expected to rise to the top of the Eastern Conference. With an All-Star in Marbury, New Jersey won only 26 games in 2000-01, the team’s first season under coach Byron Scott.
Kidd was coming to Jersey off three straight All-NBA first team selections. But it wasn’t like he was bringing a lengthy playoff resume with him — five appearances, four first-round losses and a five-game thrashing in his lone trip to the conference semifinals.
And New Jersey was young. God, they were young.
Four rookies made the final roster coming out of training camp — second-round pick Brian Scalabrine and three first-round picks acquired from the Houston Rockets on draft night for the rights to their own first-rounder, Eddie Griffin.
Power forward Kenyon Martin was entering his second season. Small forward Keith Van Horn had played four seasons. Free agent Todd MacCullouch was brought in to start at center based on his 9.5 minutes per game as a reserve the previous two seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Sir Charles In Charge
Kerry Kittles, another four-year man, held down the shooting guard spot. But he was returning after missing all of the 2000-01 campaign with a torn ACL.
This was what the 2001-02 Nets entered the season with. That, and a history since joining the NBA highlighted by the one playoff series they had managed to win.
That win in 1984 over the defending champion 76ers was historic for other reasons — it remains the only playoff series (besides a best-of-3) in which the road team won every game. New Jersey won three times at the Spectrum, the 76ers won twice at Brendan Byrne Arena.
A footnote on a footnote.
Expectations for the New Jersey Nets heading into the season? Low would be an over-statement.
Kidd’s addition didn’t make either prognosticator’s list of the top additions in the NBA for the season in Time, but they loved them some Hakeem Olajuwon to the Toronto Raptors, Patrick Ewing to the Orlando Magic and Mitch Richmond to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Hey, they did get Mike Bibby to the Sacramento Kings right.
Bill Simmons, at the time still going by the “Sports Guy” moniker as a columnist for ESPN’s once-popular Page 2, picked the Nets to finish 10th in the East. Neither of the Time writers at the (pardon the pun) time, Paul Katcher or Mark Coatney, had New Jersey in the postseason.
But Jason Kidd took control of that team. No one did the heavy lifting — Kidd, Martin and Van Horn each averaged 13-14 shots per game. No one topped 15 points per.
The Smoking Cuban
A fast start — the Nets won seven of their first eight games — built confidence. A six-game winning streak in January pulled New Jersey to the front of the pack in the East with a 26-11 mark. Another six-game run got the Nets to 38-17.
There were some hiccups late — New Jersey finished 14-13 from that point — but gained momentum after surviving a first-round battle with the Indiana Pacers.
Eking out a Game 5 win at home to finally finish the Pacers, New Jersey decimated the Charlotte Hornets in five games and then knocked off the Boston Celtics in six.
The Finals weren’t fun — Shaquille O’Neal sort of feasted on MacCulloch (OK, he ate him alive) — and the Lakers swept the Nets.
The following year, New Jersey swept the top-seeded Detroit Pistons to win the East again and were competitive with the San Antonio Spurs before going down in six.
Kidd was the driving force for that run, still the high-water mark for the Nets franchise in the NBA.
As the 2018-19 season grows on the horizon, it’s worth pointing out that Kidd is the franchise’s all-time leader in assists (by almost 1,600 over second-place Bill Melchionni), in steals and in 3-pointers made.
His 9.1 assists per game average is a full assist more than second-place Marbury on the team’s all-time list.
As a Nets fan since the early 1970s, Kidd’s induction is a huge highlight. Kidd is a Hall of Famer we can claim as our own and his induction is a validation for those fun years as a contender in the early 21st century — a time that was as surprising as it was enjoyable.