Suns News

SuperKidd

By Joe Gilmartin

Posted: April 19, 2001


Once upon a time Jason Kidd was a very good point guard. In fact, there were those who said he was the best point guard on the planet. But that was then and this is now. And now he's even better.

Then, the only hole in his otherwise awesome game (actually more of a nit-pick than a hole) was that he wasn't a good shooter, didn't look for the shot enough, or just plain didn't score enough (take your pick). Now none of the above applies.

By way of illustrating just how small this hole/nit-pick was, former Clippers' coach Bill Fitch once said Jason had so many other ways to not only beat you but actually dominate a game that he really didn't have to score at all. And a lot of other coaches around the league would give a heartfelt "Amen" to that.

Still, if Kidd hadn't ratcheted his already top-notch game up yet another notch along about mid-March the Suns might well have spent the dwindling final days of the season planning summer vacations and/or lottery strategy instead of preparing for the playoffs.

The numbers pretty well speak for themselves. Kidd, who had never had back-to-back 30-point games in his career, strung together three in a row, and over a 13-game stretch averaged 25.4 points a game. And in one particularly sizzling stretch he was named Player of the Week on April 2 after averaging 31 points on 51 percent shooting from the field the previous seven days. And it's not like the rest of his game suffered either, as he also averaged 7.0 rebounds, 8.8 assists, and 4.3 steals.

And thanks to the even-better Kidd, the Suns reeled off seven straight wins and went from fighting for their playoff lives to jockeying for more favorable seeding position.

So what happened?

Did Jason just get up one morning and realize that the only way the Suns were going to go deep into the postseason, or into it at all, is if he picked them up and carry them? And that the only way to do that was to pick up his scoring pace?

Did coach Scott Skiles call him in and plead and beg with him to shoot more?

Or was the change more a combination of circumstances rather than a planned and calculated move born of quiet (or not so quiet) desperation?

Or what?

"I think mostly it was that my teammates encouraged me to be more offensive minded," he said. "They kept urging me to shoot more, and I took that to heart and really worked at it. I did start taking more shots and looking to be more offensive minded, and with that I started making some baskets, and my scoring went up."

"He had to do it," said Rodney Rogers "because we really needed it. We kept telling him to take the shots when he was open because we always thought he could make them. And now he's doing it. He's the best right now in the league by far."

"Jason has the desire to always improve," added Clifford Robinson, "and he's done that. As a result he's become more aggressive in looking for the jump shot and taking the ball to the basket, and it's really helped our team. His play down the stretch has just been tremendous."

Anyone else?

"He's really been unbelievable," answered Chris Dudley. "He's been playing like the MVP."

As Kidd's scoring has soared, so has his confidence in his shooting.

"In the past if I missed my first three or four shots I would stop looking at the basket," he said, "and would maybe have not even shot the ball at all after that. But now I have a lot more confidence in my shot."

Skiles, ever the pragmatist, had a simple explanation for Kidd's scoring splurge.

"He's had a stretch where he made a lot of shots so he kept shooting them," said the coach. "It's easy to shoot when you're making it."

Skiles, who incidentally was quite happy with the old Kidd, doesn't entirely buy the proposition there is a new one.

"Everybody's acting like this is a new version of Jason," he said, "but I don't think you can jump the gun about anything. He was 6-for-22 in a game after this hot streak. But I've always said he was a phenomenal player even when he wasn't scoring a whole lot. He's just the kind of guy who will do whatever it takes to win. And if that means more scoring he'll try to score more. But there's nothing new about that. He's always been that way. Right now he's playing at a level very few people in the league are playing at, and he's carrying us."

Skiles has never been much for gilding lilies. Even his own lilies. But when asked to assess Kidd's position among NBA point guards, he replied unhesitatingly, "right at the top."

"I always hesitate to rank people by position," he continued, "but he's in a very small group at the very top. And he keeps getting better all the time. I don't know that you'd call him a young player anymore at 28, but he's still not quite even in his prime yet.

"And when he's really, really active defensively he's the best point guard defender there is. He can dominate games with defense, and I think he's going to be First Team All-Defense this year, which he should be."

Even without his scoring upgrade, Kidd was having an MVP-type season. And with the conclusion of the regular season, he has officially locked up his third-straight assists title (a threepeat accomplished previously only by John Stockton, Oscar Robertson and Bob Cousy).

Just having the old Kidd healthy going into the playoffs this year is a big plus. Last year, of course, he broke his left ankle in late March and was out the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs. Having not only a healthy but an even better Kidd gives the club a solid peg to hang its hopes on.

"I think if we can stay healthy and play as well as we know we're capable of," said Kidd, "anything can happen.

"There's no one clear cut power out there and it's wide open in the Western Conference. That's what's going to make it so exciting. Each game is going to be huge."

Amen! And while Kidd probably won't get MVP, he most certainly is one.




ATTN: NBA WANNABES

Suns guard Jason Kidd is hosting three basketball camps this summer open to boys and girls ages 6-18 years old. Last year Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal was a surprise guest at one of Kidd's camps. Who knows who will show up this year?

The first camp is scheduled for June 25-29 at Mountain Pointe High School, while the second will be held July 9-13 at Thunderbird High School. An overnight camp at Pine Summit in Prescott will be held July 20-24.

Every camper will be provided one autograph from Kidd, not to mention invaluable hoops instruction. Family and group discounts are available. For more information please call (480) 705-6324.




DOUBLE TEAM

If Jason Kidd thought he had his hands full with 2-year-old son T.J., just wait until next October. Jason and his wife, Joumana, recently found out they are expecting twins.

"We were both shocked when we saw she was having twins," Jason said. "This is something that Joumana always wanted, to have twins. I guess she got her wish."

With the new Kidds due in October, Jason could be a very tired man during the 2001 preseason, but he's not concerned.

"We both will be tired, but we are excited to have two more join the family," he said. "I can't wait to see T.J.'s expression. He doesn't understand now, but he'll be the older brother, that will be good for him."