DALLAS --- Jason Kidd, the oldest player on the Dallas Mavericks’ roster, fielded a rebound off a miss by San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Park, sprinted down the court, then pulled up for a three-pointer that pushed the Mavericks’ lead back to double digits with 7:52 remaining in the fourth quarter of Saturday night’s game at American Airlines Center.
On the very next possession, Kidd threw a cross-court pass to Dirk Nowitzki, who drained a three that extended the Mavericks’ cushion to 13 points.
Showing virtually no signs of rust in an NBA stint that spans 17 seasons, the 38-year-old Kidd looked more like a player who was in the prime of his career in the Mavericks’ 106-99 win over their intrastate rivals.
“It felt pretty good,” said Kidd, explaining his performance against the Spurs. “I was just trying to be aggressive. I’ve played against the Spurs a lot and know their tendency, and I felt confident I could knock (shots) down. We have 23 games left, so it’s time to get ready for the (playoffs).”
Kidd’s 14 points on a 5-of-9 shooting --- including a 4-of-5 effort from beyond the arc --- were among the reasons Dallas managed to withstand the Spurs’ furious late rally that resulted in its third consecutive win. That Kidd, who entered Saturday’s contest averaging just 5.5 points per game, has managed to upgrade his offensive productivity couldn’t have come at a better time for the reigning world champs, who currently occupy the fifth spot in the Western Conference playoff race.
That’s because during last year’s title chase, Kidd was among Dallas’ key contributors, particularly during the Mavs’ playoff series against the Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals. Kidd registered double figures in Games 2-4 (13, 13, and 17 points, respectively) as Dallas grabbed a commanding three games to one lead.
Most importantly, that Kidd, a ten-time All-Star and the league’s fourth oldest player, has shown he’s capable of being a floor general at this stage in his career is among the reasons veteran shooting guard Jason Terry cautions that people should not write off the Mavs as they prepare to defend their title.
In other words, with Kidd orchestrating Dallas’ offense as if he’s a couple of years removed from the University of California, the Mavericks are convinced this year could very well turn out like last year for a team that began the condensed, 66-game regular season seemingly experiencing a championship hangover.
“We’re not worried about him when he’s on the floor,” Terry said of Kidd. “Regardless of what the stats say, he is a factor.”
Drafted second overall by the Mavericks in the 1994, Kidd, whose playing career also includes stops in Phoenix (1996-2001) and New Jersey (2001-08), said among the things he deems intriguing about his second stint in Dallas is the organization’s commitment to keeping a championship-caliber team intact.
“You’ve got one of the best owners in the game, and the best players in the game, so you want to win,” said Kidd, who guided the Nets to consecutive NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003. “I think once you cross that finish line in winning a championship, you want to get back there.”
If nothing else, Kidd --- who realizes his window of opportunity to collect another ring is diminishing, given how long he’s played --- seems obsessed in helping the Mavs seize back-to-back titles.
At least, he played like it against the Spurs.
He converted crucial baskets. He scrapped for loose balls. He tussled for rebounds on both ends of the floor. He managed to get other players involved in an offensive rhythm, particularly when the Spurs escalated a rally.
It was, according to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, a performance that was reminiscent of Kidd’s early days in the NBA.
“Dallas was a sharper team,” Popovich said. “They took what we gave them. They showed a lot of aggression. Jason had a good game. He’s still a good player.”
Not bad for the oldest player on the roster.
Memphis Sport Magazine senior writer Andre Johnson, who also is a frequent contributor for the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper, was on hand to cover Saturday night’s game between the San Antonio Spurs vs. the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@AJ_Journalist.