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Art Garcia

Both Jason Kidd and Steve Nash have signed deals through their late 30s.
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Teams not scared away by age of skillful veterans

By Art Garcia,
Posted Jul 24 2009 10:01AM

Jason Kidd signed a new three-year contract worth $25 million. The Mavericks' point guard will be 39 when the deal is a done.

Steve Nash, 35, just added two years and $22 million to his service agreement. Instead of joining LeBron and friends in next summer's free agency bonanza, the Suns locked up the two-time MVP through 2012.

A pair of 34-year-old power forwards switched teams to join contenders for three years and $19 million. The Celtics snapped up Rasheed Wallace, while the Spurs snagged his graybeard teammate Antonio McDyess. The popular Grant Hill, a spry 36, is back in Phoenix for two more seasons and $6.3 million.

What's going on here? Is 35 the next 28? When did old get in?

When the guys in the above-mentioned crop are available, years on the earth aren't standing in the way of years (or money) on a contract.

Players in mid-30s to sign in offseason
Name Age Team Contract (years) Amount
Jason Kidd 36 Mavs 3 $25 million
Steve Nash* 35 Suns 2 $22 million
Rasheed Wallace 34 Celtics 3 $19 million
Antonio McDyess 34 Spurs 3 $19 million
Grant Hill 36 Suns 2 $6.3 million
Anthony Parker 34 Cavs 2 $5.5 million
* - Two-year contract extension

"They are good players," Dallas owner Mark Cuban explained. "That's the first thing. Second is that the rules have evolved so that less contact is acceptable, particularly on the perimeter. With less banging outside or inside, guys have stayed healthier and that has extended careers. Then of course there are the medical advances. Surgeries that were once career-ending now are commonplace."

Kidd and McDyess are two of the test cases for microfracture surgery. Kidd, the ffuture Hall of Fame point guard, went under the knife in 2004 and has played a third of his career since. McDyess isn't the explosive dynamo of his youth, but he's carved out a successful run the last six years.

Wallace and McDyess left Detroit for precisely the reason they were brought to Detroit. Boston and San Antonio are after championships, and both teams felt these versatile power forwards each fit into what's already a proven nucleus.

There's also an emotional component that goes beyond simply basketball motives. The Suns and Mavs, for instance, felt a serious pull to bring their point guards back because of what each means to the organization and community.

Nash began his career in Phoenix, returned to win two MVPs and lead the team to the brink of the Finals. He's the floppy-haired face of a franchise that's had a rough go of it lately. The Suns missed the Playoffs last season and traded away Shaquille O'Neal last month. Amar'e Stoudemire may be the next to go.

Nash leaving next summer would have been a huge hit in the court of public affection, never mind the ticket sales department. No. 13 jerseys still sell, even if Nash didn't make the last All-Star team in his hometown.

Dallas officials were genuinely concerned about Kidd's flirtations with Nash's old coach Mike D'Antoni and the Knicks. Losing Kidd for nothing, just 17 months after trading Devin Harris, an Eastern Conference All-Star point guard, would have been a PR nightmare.

And while Kidd's All-Star days appear gone, he remained a priority in Dallas. The Mavs needed him back, outbidding New York in the process, with an eye on the Dirk Nowitzki window. Kidd's return also helped lead to the Shawn Marion sign-and-trade, although the Mavs would have remained active in the player-acquisition market had their point guard walked.

Cuban has signed two 30-somethings this offseason without a second thought. Marion, 31, has at least another five years and $40 million coming his way in the NBA. The Mavs, obviously, believe Marion will contribute big time.

The same goes for the teams who snapped up J-Kidd, 'Sheed, 'Dyess, Grant and the Canadian. That's why Cuban and his fellow owners weren't talking about one-year deals for the veteran's minimum with these basketball sages. They can play and, even in this economy, someone is going to pay.

"None of the players mentioned has to carry a team," Cuban added. "They are complimentary pieces that make teams better. You might even call them very skilled role players. While their physical abilities may have diminished in some cases, they continue to excel in the roles they play for their teams."

No matter their age.

If you have a question or comment for Art Garcia, send him an email.

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