As Jason Kidd prepares to try and orchestrate an NBA championship for the Dallas Mavericks in the upcoming NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, thinking of Kidd has to bring mixed emotions to fans of the New Jersey Nets. The future Hall of Fame point guard got closer than he ever has to an NBA title while with the Nets, getting them to the Finals in back-to-back seasons.
In 2002, the Nets were swept by Shaquille O’Neal the Los Angeles Lakers. In 2003, they lost in six games to Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs.
“When you go back-to-back, you feel like you will be able to go back every other year,” Kidd said in an interview with ESPNNewYork.com. “I didn’t think it would be a drought as long as it has been.”
Kidd, now 38, was a Net, and at the height of his incredible basketball powers, from the 2001-2002 season at age 28 through the 2006-2007 season at age 33.The Nets made the playoffs in all six of the full seasons Kidd spent with the team after the 2001 trade for Stephon Marbury. They could never do better, however, than the two Finals appearances achieved in Kidd’s first two seasons.
Of course, that leads you to think about the ‘what ifs.’
What if Keith Van Horn, drafted second overall in 1997 and quickly traded to New Jersey by the Philadelphia 76ers, had been the kind of transcendent player Dirk Nowitzki is now. At 6-foot-10, with great shooting range and ball skills, some thought Van Horn would reach those levels. He never did, having a nice career but not a great one. He averaged 16 points per game over a nine-year career, only once scoring more than 20 points per game. Van Horn and Kidd teamed in the 2001-2002 season, but after the sweep by the Lakers Van Horn was dealt to Philadelphia for Dikembe Mutombo.
What if The Nets had been able to get the No. 1 pick in 1997, rather than having the ping pong balls bounce toward the San Antonio Sours. That would have given them Tim Duncan. What a pair Kidd and Duncan would have been together in their prime years of the early 2000s.
What if Alonzo Mourning had been a healthy player during his time with the Nets, rather than one whoe career was derailed by kidney disease?
All Nets fans can do is wonder what could have been. And hope that Deron Williams future with the Nets proves to be at least as bright as the time Kidd spent with the franchise was.