DALLAS – Michael Finley once told me that loyalty is not about how you’re treated by a team while you’re playing. It’s about how you’re treated when you’re done playing.
Judging by the frost coming from Mark Cuban, don’t expect the Jason Kidd and Dallas Mavericks to make up anytime soon.
The emotions are still too raw at the upper end of the Mavericks organization. Kidd spurned a Big D return last summer, making a business, lifestyle and competitive choice to relocate to the Big Apple for his NBA golden years.
The Mavs thought they had a deal in place with Kidd. Getting left at the altar hurts, and Cuban’s memory is long. The billionaire said this summer he has no plans to retire Kidd’s number. That’s understandable.
But does Kidd deserve it?
“That’s a question only Mark Cuban can answer,” Mavericks president Donnie Nelson said. “Who knows? Sometimes time has a way of healing things.”
Cuban wanted no part of a Kidd discussion from his Stairmaster pulpit before Wednesday’s game. Basing it on today, they’ll never, ever getting back together.
“I loved Dallas,” Kidd said after the 114-111 loss to his former team. “What we accomplished as a team will always be special to me, but now I’m in New York trying to accomplish that again and that’s to try to win another championship.”
Despite being in the same building for the second time in two weeks, Cuban and Kidd didn’t cross paths.
“I was trying to defend his guys,” Kidd said. “I didn’t get a chance to talk to him. Somewhere down the road we’ll talk.”
Time does heal and feelings do thaw. Kidd’s contributions to the Mavericks franchise predate Cuban. That 2011 championship banner isn’t hanging from the American Airlines Center rafters without Kidd’s deft touch.
Regardless of the offseason fallout, his contributions are appreciated in these parts.
“One of the best ever to play the game,” Nelson said of Kidd, “and our quarterback to our championship season.”
Kidd is giving the Knicks that veteran guile that helped the Mavericks finally get over the title hump. He’s not the headliner in the New York. He is a key component of a deep squad built around superstar Carmelo Anthony.
Sounds a lot like the team-first Kidd that quarterbacked the Dirk Nowitzki-led Mavericks two years ago.
“That’s what we’re trying to do in New York,” Tyson Chandler said.
Me-first had been the M.O. of the Melo Knicks up until this season. Chandler knows from his one year in Dallas how playing for something more than personal accolades can pay off. Kidd joining the Knickerbockers reinforces that.
And the guy can still play a bit. In the first four minutes Wednesday, Kidd had a steal, a 3-pointer and a wrap-around assist to Chandler for a dunk. Cuban probably wanted to take back Kidd’s championship ring right then.
Kidd finished with season-high 17 points – more than he scored in any game last year – six rebounds, five assists and five steals. He also received a nice ovation during pregame introductions.
“It was great. Dallas has the best fans,” Kidd said. “This is a great sports town. With the warm welcome, it’s always appreciated, but I know they were cheering for us to lose.”
In the big picture, Kidd shouldn’t be booed for parting ways with Dallas. The Mavericks discarded Kidd first – trading him less than two years after he won Rookie of the Year. Dallas fans watched the bulk of his Hall-of-Fame career from afar until Cuban brought him back in 2008.
Forced to leave once, don’t fault Kidd for doing so voluntarily the second time. He earned that right.
“I’m done with Dallas,” Kidd replied with a steely stare when asked about the current Mavs’ makeup.
It goes both ways. Finley was The Franchise before Nowitzki rightly took that mantle. When Fin’s max contract became too cumbersome in 2005, the Mavs cut him. Finley signed with the rival San Antonio Spurs.
The Finley-Mavericks relationship was over at that point. The years they spent together didn’t mean a thing. Business had become personal. Animosity was thick on both sides.
Seven summers later, Finley helped in Dallas’ recruitment of Deron Williams. Finley has a place now in the Mavericks front office. Ice can melt.
Maybe it does one day for Kidd. There’s plenty of room in the rafters.