By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
This is Kidd's second disconnect with a head coach in Dallas. But then, in '96, management traded him and kept coach Jim Cleamons. Now, the Mavericks are convinced Kidd is the solution, not the problem.
One of Carlisle's top priorities over the summer was to connect with his point guard. Through text messages, phone calls and even a trip to Kidd's home in New York, where the two recently dined at an Italian restaurant.
"I'm very excited," Kidd says. "I'm convinced we're going to have the freedom to get out and run. We're going to maximize our potential and show who we really are. It's like night and day."
But at 35 and entering the final year of a contract that will pay him $21 million, Kidd's future appears as uncertain as a DISD teacher's. At this point in his career, who is Jason Kidd?
Is he the charismatic leader who not long ago willed the New Jersey Nets to consecutive Finals appearances? Can he still be the best rebounding guard in the history of the game, consistently leading fast breaks with uncanny vision and on-time, on-target assists?
Or is he the poor-shooting, step-slow defender that, at times, looked out of his league with the U.S. team in Beijing?
Carlisle thinks he knows the answer.
"He's a Hall of Fame player still producing at an All-Star level," the coach says. "He's great, and I don't use that word loosely. Now maybe he isn't going to go out and get you a triple-double every night. But in my mind he's still one of the best point guards in this league, and we're counting on him to do a lot for us."
Adds Nowitzki, "He's definitely still got it."
With Carlisle promising to allow the Mavericks to play Bas-Kidd-ball, they'll definitely be a more entertaining team than last season. With Kidd unshackled, they should run more and score more and win more.
But if they don't—without Avery to blame—then what?