Why are all of my favorite memories of losses?!

Appreciating Jason Kidd

Jason Kidd played just over 33 minutes last night. He scored 18 points and dished out 8 assists…and he had zero turnovers.* Jason Kidd is 38 years old, on a playoff team that many (myself included) discounted in the first round,  just led his team to a decisive victory against a tough Portland team – and he commited no turnovers in doing so.

*The Mavs as a team protected the ball extremely well – only 6 turnovers on the night.

On a night that Peja Stojakovic went insane – his offensive rating for the night, according to Basketball-Reference, was 156 – Jason Kidd was insaner. His ORtg? 172. That’s only slightly lower than the number of games Yao Ming has played in the past 4 seasons.

 I tend to have an appreciation for ex-Suns, so I may be fawning. The summer that I turned 12, I spent way too many evenings with a friend imitating Rex Chapman’s game-tying 3-pointer off of a Kidd pass in the 1997 NBA Playoffs. The overthrow, the catch and shot – the only part we left out was the Suns’ subsequent loss.

Beyond my typical affinity, though, I think it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate what it is that Jason Kidd has done and, more importantly, is doing. We often want the players we idolize to reach their potential. To go beyond it, really – to achieve perfection.

Make the efficient decision.

Correct mistakes.

Strengthen weaknesses.

They will all fall short, surely; it is an impossible task. And we know this, which is why we often settle for less, heralding the  effort to improve. Doubt it? The existence of the Most Improved Player Award would like to have a word with you.

Jason Kidd exemplifies much of that. At the end of his career in Phoenix, Kidd’s 3-point field goal percentage was 32.7%; in two seasons in which he took over 200 attempts from deep, he shot worse than that.*

*Including a horrible 2000-2001 season in which his 3P% was 29.7% on 232 attempts. This came in the middle of a three year stretch where Kidd’s effective field goal percentage hovered just over 44%.

But Kidd worked at it. The wonderful program The Association, focused on the Boston Celtics’ 2010-2011 season, put a giant spotlight on Ray Allen and the amount of reptition and the depth of dedication necessary to becoming one of the game’s elite shooters – and maintaining that level of shooting night after night. No one will ever confuse Jesus Buttersworth (if you don’t get it, you really need to come to DDL)** for Jason Kidd, however…

In 2009-2010, Kidd shot 42.5% on 414 3-point attempts. Allen shot 36.3% on 399. Of course, Allen out-shot Kidd by a significant margin (44.4% to 34.0%) this season. Ray Allen is one of the best shooters in NBA history; Jason Kidd is certainly not that. I compare the two only to illustrate that the latter saw a glaring weakness in his game and practiced to the point of respectability. It’s something the great players (see: Dwight Howard’s work with Hakeem Olajuwon to develop his offensive repertoire, LeBron James’ under-publicized devotion to dominating in the post) do to earn that description.

Great players improve their game so that they can perform their best in when it matters most. And in a playoff game in 2011, Jason Kidd, formerly a 32.7% career 3-point shooter, shot 50% from deep.

In Game 2, the Blazers largely defended Dirk Nowitzki well (40.9% EFG%) and defended him hard (he had 17 free throw attempts). Dirk scored 33 points anyway because he’s an MVP-caliber player. His night was constantly buoyed by the efforts of two men who can remember when the Petrified Forest burned down. Peja’s might be the best he has to offer – marvel at the flash in the sky, friends, because it probably won’t be back in our lifetimes.

Jason Kidd, on the other hand, doesn’t need your undivided attention. He only needs enough to take the load off of his teammates. Against the Blazers, he did so by making 3 of 6 3-pointers, drawing a foul, posting a 42.6% assist rate, and forcing you to divide by zero if you want to define his assist to turnover ratio.

I urge you to enjoy him. He’s worked hard to make sure you won’t regret it.

**Unsure what DDL is? Have a comment? Find me on twitter (@snghoops) or send me an e-mail, snghoops@gmail.com!

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