Right from his arrival in New Jersey from Phoenix on July 18th, 2001. Jason Kidd showed why he was considered the best point guard in the NBA at that time. The NBA's leading passer immediately rejuvenated the Nets, transforming them into a mighty instant offense machine, which made consecutive trips to NBA finals both in 2002 and 2003!
But along the way, a team like San Antonio Spurs, which won 2003 NBA finals to claim their 2nd NBA Championship title ever, became really interested and anxious about Kidd's potential in their system.
Spurs started to ask themselves what if such a top-notch floor general could, even more, solidify their team chemistry, strengthen up the depth chart at guard positions and increase their chances in the future clashes with their primary Western Conference nemesis - Los Angeles Lakers?
Do they stick with a promising rookie Tony Parker and invest in his progress or do they reach for the player who had a relatively easy time with Parker in the finals, MVP-runner up - Jason Kidd?
If they reach for Kidd, it could be groundbreaking - it could lead to their own NBA dynasty. They knew that something needed to be done in order fo find out, and try to lure Kidd to Texas.
The first stage of a grand plan to lure Kidd started even before, during the '01/'02 regular season when the Spurs GM R.C. Buford visited some of the Nets games. Kidd very much knew who is sitting there watching him, but the Nets, surprisingly, didn't have any clue about this! And before they knew it, Kidd went to San Antonio to enjoy an excellent sight-seeing tour around the town, while being escorted by - Tim Duncan!
“I thought I was going to be a Spur. I committed when I was down there on my visit [to San Antonio]. On my flight home, I think I got cold feet. And sometimes I have nightmares about that. Maybe I could have won a championship or two there. But I got really lucky with Dallas and won a championship. It is something that I sometimes regret. I wanted to see if I could win a championship in San Antonio.”
The Nets became aware of the threat when Jason and his then-wife Joumana started to e-mail the photos from the hotel suite to Nets President Rod Thorn. For Thorn, it was clear as a bell that the situation is alarming! The Nets finally knew something needs to be done, and it needs to be done urgently!
"They had a five-year plan to show him and we had no plan. San Antonio rolled out the red carpet and Jersey had nothing for him. We underestimated how much he wanted to be recruited, and probably got a little arrogant in thinking that he wouldn't leave. We dropped the ball."
Nets team offical
But the Nets did have a secret weapon - Kidd’s wife Joumana. At the time she believed that she had a bright TV career in front of her in New York and didn’t want to sacrifice the prospect of the top US market for the then-38th biggest market. On the other hand, Kidd managed to convince Nets management led by Thorn to sign up free-agent center Alonzo Mourning to a four-year 22.6 million USD contract.
But, it didn't take too long before everything which was put in place started to fall apart. First of all, Jason and Joumana Kidd divorced. The idea of Mourning becoming a Nets savior in the middle just crashed and burned - at the end of the saga Zo was traded to Toronto. And the Nets never fully recovered.
How well would Jason Kidd fit with the San Antonio Spurs?
It all depends on one man and his vision - Gregg Popovich. No doubt that Kidd would instantly increase Spurs chances of reaching the final stage in the years following 2003.
“I thought that Jason Kidd being there, being the mentally tough person that he is and with his skills, would be the greatest education for Tony Parker. And Tony can go play the 2; he was a scoring guard, anyway. As Jason gets older, let him move over to the 2; let Tony take 1. Brilliant, brilliant. Let’s go get this thing done. Tony did not love that idea at all. We still tried to do it. And Jason didn’t come.”
But, from today’s perspective, it’s clear that in order to get things to work out with Kidd as a Spur, some major sacrifice, both in minutes and salaries, needed to be done by Tony Parker and/or Manu Ginobili.
The two future Hall-of-Famers wouldn’t develop as they eventually did, leading the Spurs to 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014 NBA Championship titles. With time discomfort with Kidd taking their place in the rotation would grow.
With Kidd being in his prime, and Parker a young are in the making, the situation would tend to get out of the control. It might have resulted in Parker’s tendency to leave San Antonio.
Occasionally, every once in a while, Pop still mentions Kidd’s name.
Tony Parker still doesn’t like it. And never will.