Jason Kidd returns to Dallas Mavericks

By Schuyler Dixon

DALLAS – Jason Kidd is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Again. Finally.

The long-discussed, once-scuttled and ultimately reconfigured deal to bring Kidd from New Jersey back to the team that drafted him was finalized Tuesday. He was reintroduced in Dallas 14 years after the Mavericks made him the No. 2 pick.

Back then, Kidd was supposed to help turn around one of the worst franchises in sports. Now, as one of the league’s best point guards, he’s seen as a crucial piece in the Mavs’ pursuit of a championship.

“There’s no bigger reward than to have that championship trophy in your hand,” said Kidd, who lost in the NBA finals twice with the Nets. “That’s why I’m here. Because Dallas has its eye on that prize.”

The eight-player deal, in the making since before the All-Star break and talked about a lot longer than that, sends Kidd, forward Malik Allen and guard Antoine Wright to Dallas.

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The primary piece headed to New Jersey is point guard Devin Harris. The others are center DeSagana Diop, swingman Maurice Ager, forward Trenton Hassell and retired forward Keith Van Horn. New Jersey also gets two first-round draft picks and $3 million.

Van Horn and Hassell replace Jerry Stackhouse and Devean George in an original trade proposal. Stackhouse’s presence in the deal was muddled by plans to get him back to Dallas – within the rules, although in a way the league frowned upon – and George used his veto power to block his involvement.

“It’s been the most amazing, interesting trade we’ve ever done, and we’ve done some doozies here,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. “I’ve never seen anything like it, but all’s well that ends well. We got the right guys.”

Kidd wasn’t the answer in Dallas a decade ago, and he was shipped to Phoenix after 2 1/2 seasons. Five years later he was traded to the Nets, who went to back-to-back NBA finals in 2002-03.

New Jersey hasn’t made a long playoff run since, and Kidd started talking trade a year ago, when he almost went to the Los Angeles Lakers. He went public with his latest trade demand last month.

“He’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of guy to play with and coach,” Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. “He’s had an unbelievable impact on everyone in this organization and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Cuban, who was a Mavericks season ticket holder the last time Kidd was in Dallas, is essentially gambling that the 1 1/2 seasons he’ll have Kidd is worth more than the 4 1/2 seasons left with Harris running the offense.

Kidd, of course, is a proven commodity, but he turns 35 next month and is a decade older than Harris.

“In any business there’s lulls,” Cuban said. “Everybody was waiting for the postseason to start. You can’t just say, ‘OK, turn it on in the postseason.’ I think Jason … being that iconic All-Star will spark a lot of people.”

Nets president Rod Thorn saw the same problem on New Jersey’s end. He said as the Nets struggled this season, Kidd lost some of the intensity that defines him as a player, making the trade imperative.

Thorn said he first noticed it in December, an indirect reference to an incident in which Kidd sat out a game against the New York Knicks with a migraine, a move some considered a one-day walkout to force a trade.

“Over the course of time it became very evident that his heart wasn’t in it,” Thorn said. “The kind of player he is, if his heart’s not in it then he’s not the same player, and it became evident to me that his heart wasn’t in it anymore.