The MVP Kidd?
Kidd leads the NBA in assists and minutes, is fourth in double-doubles, ninth in steals, and 35th in rebounding (No. 1 among guards). And his assists-to-turnovers ratio is a phenomenal 3.80. But still, you have to be there to appreciate just how much he means to the Suns as they struggle to keep their heads above lottery waters.
Sunday night he recorded his fifth triple-double of the year with 26 points, 14 assists, and 11 rebounds, and nary a turnover as the Suns exploded for a season-high 67 points in the second half to beat the Rockets 104-90 and snap a four-game home court losing streak. In the decisive 37-point fourth quarter (also a season high) Kidd had 12 points, six rebounds and four assists.
"Jason was unbelievable tonight," said Suns' Coach Danny Ainge. "I know you guys take that for granted, but I certainly don't. He initiated all the offense, and I hope everybody appreciates just how special he is."
From Danny's lips to MVP voters ears.
Kidd is listed as a point guard, as opposed to a shooting guard, but actually he's more of a power guard, as he has the strength to back people down and the speed to blow past them. And when you combine those qualities with Stockton-like court vision, you get perhaps the best all-around guard in the league today.
"I feel I'm much improved this year," he says modestly. "But at the same time I realize I still have a lot to learn about the game."
Maybe. But you could excuse the Rockets for wondering what it is he doesn't know. And San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich would be even harder to convince Kidd is still learning.
After the Spurs escaped with a 99-97 win here Friday night, Popovich said, "Jason Kidd is a royal pain in the (rear). That's all I've got to say. He's been a pain in the (rear) since high school. He's been great forever, but this year more than any other. He just scares you to death."
The key to his triple doubles, of course, is rebounds. But while Jason enjoys that part of his job, he deflects some of the credit for his board work to his teammates in the trenches, and hopes it won't always be necessary for him to grab 10 or more boards for the Suns to win.
"The biggest thing is that hopefully that won't have to be the scenario every time," he says, "because I don't think my body could deal with it. Tonight Joe and Cliff were fighting their butts off with Charles and Hakeem, and my job is to help them out as much as they help me on pick and rolls. Getting the rebound and pushing the ball down the court is a big part of our game."
Cliff and Joe would be Clifford Robinson and Joe Kleine. Robinson, who's defensive assignments this year have ranged from Gary Payton to Shawn Kemp and beyond, did a brilliant job on Hakeem Olajuwon last night, and also contributed 13 points and four steals. And while he may not be the best defender in the NBA, the 6-10 forward is surely among the most versatile.
Kleine, the People's Choice despite limited minutes, was pressed into service when Luc Longley was sidelined with a bruised hip, and he responded with a season-high 20 minutes and 10 points. And he had a hand, or more precisely a body, in holding Charles Barkley to only 2-of-8 from the field in the fourth quarter.
Asked if the 7-0 Kleine was put on the 6-6 Chuckster because of his height, Ainge grinned and said, "It was more because of his strength. Joe actually plays at 6-5, but he is very strong."
Actually, Kidd had more help against the Rockets than he has in almost any other game this year.
"I've said all along that for us to win we have to have several people playing very well," said Ainge, "and we had that tonight. Danny Manning was outstanding at both ends of the floor, and if Tom Gugliotta hadn't been hot in the first half we would have had no chance."
The Suns' will need some more strong performances over the next couple weeks as they will now play six of their next seven games on the road, beginning with Tuesday's contest in Milwaukee.