Friday, May 31
Updated: May 31, 9:57 AM ET
Family matters to Kidd as Game 6 looms
By Adrian Wojnarowski
Special to ESPN.com
BOSTON -- They used to sit in the darkness of hotel suites, father and son talking like bunk buddies at a summer camp. This was the good life for Steve Kidd, his 30 years with TWA enabling him to fly free across the Western Conference, stopping city to city to see his son Jason perform peerlessly in the NBA.
What Jason wouldn't give to see Steve Kidd sitting with his daughter-in-law, Joumana, and grandson, T.J., on Friday night at the Fleet Center. This way, he wouldn't need the Celtics' offers of extra security for them, an offer the Kidds decided to decline by opting for Joumana and T.J. to stay home.
"(He) would've been security enough," Kidd said with a smile.
This promises to be the wildest night of Jason Kidd's basketball life, the Nets leading the best-of-seven conference finals 3-2, on the brink of the NBA Finals. Kidd and his wife Joumana are public enemies No. 1 and 1A here.
"The last game was just awful," she said of being courtside Monday night, insisting she and her 3-year-old had been the subject of cruel and unusual punishment by the Celtics fans. "I can't even describe the fans. It was like … I need a word here … "
"Rude," a family friend said.
"No," she said. "Rude is a compliment."
"Disruptive," the friend tried again.
"No," she said, thinking a little longer. "Evil … Like it was Satan. We didn't wear our (Nets) jerseys (for Game 3), because we heard Boston fans were harsh. We don't want to call them out. Once they saw us, it didn't matter. They recognized us anyway, and they were ruthless.
Wednesday night at the Meadowlands, Joumana was greeted with a standing ovation, with tabloid backpages, splashy color pictures and the complete star treatment. She loves it. After Game 5, Mrs. Kidd could be seen signing autographs courtside. But for the way they love her in New Jersey as part of the state's first family of basketball, they've developed a distinct disdain for her in Boston.
One talk-show host called her "disturbed," and another started howling about when exactly her husband was going to strike her again. Even for Boston, this is uncharted territory. When has this ever happened to a star's spouse? Never mind her -- they'll remember more that Kidd, according to people within earshot, screamed the word, "Choke," to the Celtics at the end of Game 4. As dastardly as this series has played out in Boston, the Celtics' Paul Pierce, stabbed 11 times and left for dead at a Boston nightclub more than a year ago, was met with this sign in Jersey for Game 5: "Will Someone Please Stab Paul Pierce."
This series has turned into a ticking time-bomb, with Game 6 as merely the backdrop for the drama. Kidd could use someone watching his back, and always before, his father was there for him.
The best times father and son had together were always after the games, talking in the dark of his hotel room. Jason misses that, misses listening to Steve's stories about his own childhood in the Midwest. Even now, in the silence of his hotel suite, he misses his father's snoring, too. No airline employee better utilized the free-flying perk than Steve Kidd. Jason could count on his dad showing up in hotel lobbies in Los Angeles and Seattle, Salt Lake and Portland.
"Mr. Kidd would pop up with that NBA jacket he wore," said the Nets' Lucious Harris, who played with Kidd on the Mavericks. "You could just see it: He and Jason were so close."
"This is the toughest part of the year for me, because it would be great for my father to be here in person," Kidd said. "I think about him a lot before games, and I always say something to him."
Jason wishes his father could have lived to see this season, this night, this once unthinkable chance to get the Nets to the NBA Finals. This is the time of year he misses Steve Kidd most. It is these nights that turning to the stands and seeing his father would make his burden so much simpler.
Adrian Wojnarowski is a columnist for The Record (N.J.) and a regular contributor to ESPN.com.