Kidd: Dragic, Bledsoe Might Be Better Than Me and KJ
Former Phoenix Sun and current Nets coach Jason Kidd knows about great point guards. He was one. He played with a few, including Kevin Johnson during the early portion of his stop in Phoenix.
When Kidd scouted this year’s Suns, he saw a similar significance in their dual point guard lineup with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe.
Then he slipped in some high praise for good measure.
“They’re two talented point guards,” Kidd said. "They might be better than me and KJ [were].”
Again, Kidd was traded to Phoenix in December of 1996. His beginning with the Suns coincided with Johnson’s end.
That being said, here are their numbers from the 1996-97 season:
Johnson: 20.1 points, 9.3 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 1.5 steals per game (70 games)
Kidd: 11.6 points, 9.0 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 2.4 steals per game (33 games in Phoenix)
Johnson played just 50 games and started 12 of them the following season before retiring (he did make a six-game comeback for the playoffs in 2000) in the summer of 1998.
The sample size, therefore, is small. The same can be said of the pairing of Dragic and Bledsoe. The duo has started and finished just one complete game together thanks to an assortment of hard-luck injuries to the Slovenian point guard in the early stages of this season.
In that one game (a season-opening win over Portland), the two combined for 48 points, 15 assists, 13 rebounds and two steals.
Kidd also credited his time in Phoenix as a defining stage of his career.
“This is where I’ve always felt my NBA career started,” he said. “I learned how to win with that veteran team after I got traded from Dallas, an understanding of how to run the pick-and-roll, but also just how to win. I learned a lot here.”
Kidd is now learning the ropes of head coaching in the NBA. His start has been rough: two wins and five losses with a team many thought would contend with Miami in the Eastern Conference. Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek, however, said the Nets’ rough start is more the result of a veteran team eyeing a late-season and playoff run.
Kidd, meanwhile, has taken notice of his fellow rookie head coach’s work in Phoenix.
“When you look at what [Hornacek] does with this group, they play hard,” Kidd said. “They’re number one in fast break points. When you talka bout the phoenix suns, they’ve always been known as a team to score a lot of points. He’s got his group playing extremely hard. They could easily be undefeated. Maybe people felt that’s a surprise, but they’ve been in every game they’ve played.”
When asked what characteristics Hornacek has that helped create the Suns’ competitive edge, Kidd didn’t struggle for answers.
“His mannerisms, his calmness, but also his work ethic,” Kidd said. “He had a long and successful career. He’s put his blueprint in the sense of what he is, and that’s to play hard, work hard and have fun and enjoy it. You can see that’s what they’re doing out on the floor.”