If you think Kidd has regressed to the point where he's merely the role player that produced negligible stats in the playoffs, then you might as well become a Texas Rangers fan. Because, like it or not, Kidd is more crucial to the Mavs' success next season than any new coach. He needs to be able to run without consequences. He needs to post-up smaller defenders. He does not ever need to sashay to the weak side of the court as a potential spot-up shooter if the Nowitzki/Jason Terry pick-and-roll breaks down.

He does not (sorry, Avery) need to be re-wired. He needs to be re-Jason Kidded.

"Jason needs to be able to express himself," says Nelson.

Mavs superstar Dirk Nowitzki on the trading block? Don't bet on it.
Mavs superstar Dirk Nowitzki on the trading block? Don't bet on it.

Scary as it sounds, the Mavs' rebound is tied to two 30-somethings and a guy whose off-season recreational activities will be closely monitored by the league. Center Erick Dampier is here to stay. So is the only bright spot of the season, power forward Brandon Bass. Jason Terry will be back, ideally as sixth man.

"After that about half our guys are free agents," Nelson said.

They need a backup center, a backup point guard, a backup plan. The days of 60-win seasons are gone. And, if the Mavs can't finally fill their void at shooting guard, say goodbye to 50. Other than finding a coach with a softer touch and keeping Howard clean, it's priority No. 1.

Since Michael Finley left in '05 the Mavs have tried Adrian Griffin and Jerry Stackhouse and Eddie Jones and Greg Buckner and Maurice Ager and Trenton Hassell and a handful of others that flopped. To maximize the Kidd-Nowitzki arsenal, the Mavs have to get a shooting guard that can, well, shoot.

With their first-round draft pick shipped to the New Jersey Nets, the facelift will have to come via trade or free agency. Corey Maggette? Andre Iguodala? Gilbert Arenas? Doable, but difficult.

"We've got to plug some holes and hopefully get deeper and more athletic," says Nelson.

Of course, these days he also refers to Howard as "an intelligent man."


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