Jason Kidd is likely on his way out of New Jersey. It probably won't happen fast enough for the Atlanta Hawks to benefit Friday night.
Amid trade speculation, Kidd - barring a surprise deal - is expected to get a chance to lead the Nets to their fifth straight win over the Hawks when the teams continue their season series.
Kidd went public early in the week with his wish to be dealt, meaning the Nets (20-26) will endure a second straight year of daily trade speculation. They nearly traded their captain to the Los Angeles Lakers at the deadline last season.
With Kidd apparently on the trading block again, New Jersey is doing its best to overcome the distraction. The Nets ended a seven-game road losing streak with a 94-85 win over Miami on Friday night, getting 11 points and 12 assists from Kidd.
"We're not going to use anything as an excuse. I mean let's face it, you could go around the league and you go this year, he's not the first guy to ask for a trade," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "The last thing we're going to do is use this as an excuse. I mean that's unacceptable."
New Jersey has won two straight following a nine-game losing streak. A matchup with the Hawks (18-24) seems to give the Nets a good opportunity to win three in a row for the first time since a five-game run from Dec. 28-Jan. 5.
With the trade deadline less than three weeks away, dealing Kidd doesn't appear imminent. The veteran point guard will likely get a chance to continue his strong play versus Atlanta this season. He is averaging 9.5 points, 13.0 assists, 11.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in New Jersey's two games against Atlanta, helping the Nets extend their winning streak in the series.
Kidd had a triple-double in his last game against Atlanta, finishing with 10 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds in a 113-107 win for New Jersey on Jan. 5. It was his fourth career triple-double versus the Hawks.
Richard Jefferson had 21 points for the Nets in that game, and finished with 25 on Friday. The veteran forward is having a career year, averaging 24.0 points.
Jefferson will likely be matched up with Atlanta's Josh Smith, who had 21 points and 10 rebounds in a 95-88 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night. He had 34 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in January's matchup with the Nets.
However, Smith's strong effort Wednesday wasn't enough to keep the Hawks from losing their third straight game and seventh in their last eight.
"We have to distinguish whether we are going to be a good team or just an OK team," Atlanta guard Joe Johnson said. "Right now we haven't been playing up to our capabilities. We have a spurt where we don't look so good, and then we have a spurt where we look like one of the best teams in the league."
Johnson has been a bright spot for the Hawks all season, averaging 21.2 points and 5.3 assists per game, and he was recognized for his efforts Thursday when he was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team as a reserve for the second straight year.
Johnson, however, was held to nine points while shooting 4-for-16 against the Nets on Jan. 5.
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