Jason Kidd on 2011-12: 'You just wonder'

DALLAS -- Milwaukee Bucks coach Jason Kidd can’t help but have his mind wander a bit as he prepares to play the Dallas Mavericks.

Kidd sees big man Tyson Chandler back in a Mavs uniform, performing as a perfect complement to Dirk Nowitzki again. He sees guard J.J. Barea thriving as a change-of-pace pest off the Mavs’ bench again.

“You just wonder with the shortened season if we’d have brought them back,” said Kidd, whose team faces the Mavs for the second time this week Sunday. “But I think it’s great. Tyson was very comfortable when he was in Dallas the first time and you can see he’s very comfortable now. J.J. looks like he hasn’t lost a step.”

Kidd, the floor general of Dallas’ 2011 title team, is of course referring to Mavs owner Mark Cuban’s controversial decision not to keep that championship roster intact after the lockout, letting Chandler and Barea leave in free agency instead of making long-term offers to them.

We all know how that worked out for the Mavs. They failed to sign a “big fish” in free agency and are still searching for their first playoff series win since celebrating in Miami.

Without Chandler and Barea, the Mavs had to fight to make the playoffs in the lockout-shortened season, finishing the regular season with a 36-30 record and the No. 7 seed. The Oklahoma City Thunder, who were dismissed by Dallas in five games in the 2011 West finals, swept the Mavs in the first round of the playoffs.

Could the Mavs have repeated with their full championship roster? Kidd, whose relationship with Cuban has been patched up over the last couple of years, doesn't want to go too far down that road.

“It’s great coffee talk,” said Kidd, who angered Cuban when he reneged on his verbal commitment to re-sign with the Mavs in the summer of 2012 and instead joined Chandler with the New York Knicks. “Grab your Starbucks and talk about it over coffee. What if, because it was a shortened season?

“But Cuban had a plan, always thinking ahead and he had his reasons. He’s the owner, so he gets to do what he wants.”

Other core players from that title team, such as Shawn Marion and Jason Terry, have also acknowledged that they’ll always have a what-if in their mind. That isn't necessarily the case for the face of the franchise, however.

“I still don’t think we would have been in position to repeat,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “That was a lot of games, I was struggling. That’s when my knee started to act up and I missed some games. Training camp for some of our old guys was just too short. We only had a week or 10 days, two or three preseason games. I don’t know if we’d have had it.

“And there was a stretch of six games in eight days and I don’t think that would have set us up perfectly for a deep playoff run, but who knows? If you look at our playoffs, we probably should have stole both games that year in OKC and ended up getting swept. So you never know. A play here or there obviously can change a lot. But we made a business decision not to sign those guys and let ‘em go and we rolled ever since and had to deal with the decision we made then.”

Kidd certainly has no bitterness about his second stint with the Mavs. It got off to a rocky start – remember that the blockbuster deal with the Nets was widely considered a bust for the Mavs until Kidd played a critical role in delivering a title to Dallas – but will be forever remembered as a great success.

Kidd, an early Coach of the Year candidate because of the young Bucks’ impressive turnaround in his first season in Milwaukee, roots for the Mavs in all but two games each year. He sees the sustained success the Mavs have had during Nowitzki’s career as a model for Milwaukee to attempt to emulate and gives Cuban a lot of credit.

“It starts with Cuban,” Kidd said. “When he has a plan, he sticks to that plan. Sometimes he might be right. Sometimes it might be wrong. But he’s not afraid to admit when he’s wrong and he’s not afraid to admit when he’s right.”