Jason Kidd wasn't thrilled with the way things were going as this season progressed, but he still believed the Dallas Mavericks, as constructed prior to the All-Star break trade, had a chance to do big things.
But, he said, "It was going to be tough. I thought we still had the pieces before the trade, but we just couldn’t get it going on a consistent basis, and on top of that we were always fighting from behind."
Kidd's individual game, particularly his scoring, has soared since the trade that sent Josh Howard to Washington and brought in Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson. The team has done pretty well, too, going 23-7 since the trade heading into playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
"With the trade everybody got to maybe relax for a minute and we didn’t have time to really ask, 'Where would you like the ball?'" Kidd said. "We just had to play, so it was just play basketball and I think everybody got to do what they love to do and that was just play...We’re playing. We start the game off just playing basketball, everybody gets to touch it, run and try to explore and try to get an easy basket off the bat."
Kidd's two-plus years back in Dallas have been a wild ride. He joined a team coming off consecutive monumental disappointments in the 2006 NBA Finals debacle and the 2007 first-round implosion after a 67-win regular season. When Kidd arrived with championship hopes, the season spiraled down the stretch and the Mavs were wiped out of the first round in five games by the New Orleans Hornets. The day after, Johnson was fired.
"At the trade I thought it was going to be a great opportunity with Avery and Dirk [Nowitzki] and the rest of the guys," Kidd said. "But, it was a different situation. They were fresh off coming out of that Finals where they felt they should have won, there was a lot of expectations right after that trade and it just didn’t work out the way it was supposed to and I think we all got a chance to learn something and understand that you might have to just be patient, and we put ourselves right back in that situation this year."
Having just completed his second full season with the Mavs, Kidd never could have fathomed that he'd be playing for his second head coach and with just four players who were on the roster when he arrived: Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Erick Dampier and J.J Barea.
Since his return to Dallas, Kidd has preferred to assume a low profile, saying he's just one piece to the puzzle, but with the new roster, it is clear he has assumed a significant leadership role.
"He’s our motor every night. He always plays hard at both ends of the floor," Nowitzki said. "Sometimes we can stick him on their best offensive player, that’s the kind of competitor he is. He’s a warrior, you can’t say enough about him. He does it all for us. He pushes the tempo, he rebounds, he obviously sets an unselfish tone every night by passing the ball. We knew what we were going to get and that’s leadership on the court."