When his undefeated Knicks take the floor tonight for their fourth game of the NBA season, Jason Kidd will be doing so against a team with whom he has a deep history: the Dallas Mavericks.
Jason's Dallas roots date back to Draft Night 1994, when the Mavericks selected him with the No. 2 overall pick out of the University of California. J-Kidd spent the next two-and-a-half seasons with the Mavs before a trade that sent him to Phoenix.
He went on from there to New Jersey, where he led the Nets to two NBA Finals, before rejoining Dallas and finally reaching the top of the NBA mountain as a Maverick with a championship in his 17th NBA season.
But this summer, Jason elected to move on from that Dallas team to New York where he's hoping for another shot at a championship. He meets the Mavericks for the first time tonight since that decision with a different jersey on his back and a different team surrounding him. But No. 5 said this week that the game doesn't carry any extra weight in his mind.
"If I was 23, yes. But I'm not 23," he said. "To see the guys, [Mavericks owner Mark] Cuban and those guys, [it will] be good to see them, but they're on the other side. Maybe I'll see some of those guys for dinner, but come game time my job is to try and win a ball game."
But there might be some extra weight on the other side. Cuban wasn't pleased when Jason opted to go to New York and said that despite his history with Dallas and the work he did to bring the team a championship, he wouldn't retire J-Kidd's number when his career was over. Jason was asked this week about those remarks, but brushed it off.
"I'm not worried about the jersey. I'm here trying to win a ring here in New York. That's all that matters to me right now," Jason said. "I don't play for the jersey. I play for my teammates. Cuban owns the team so he has every right to his opinion, but the one thing he can't take away is a championship ring."
After winning that ring, Cuban elected to let the team disassemble via free agency, most notably allowing Tyson Chandler to sign with the Knicks right after he was a key piece in the Mavericks playing defense well enough to win a title.
Chandler said this week that he believed if Dallas had kept that team together, they had a good shot at repeating as champs last year. Jason said he would tend to agree, but the fact that it didn't happen was the business of basketball, as was his decision to leave a year later.
"In a shortened season, anything is possible. But with that group of guys that we had, it was very special," J-Kidd said. "If you would ask every one, every one would've loved to keep that team together. Business gets in the way sometimes of a good thing and we didn't have that opportunity.
"That happens. You look at a lot of championship teams have been broken up before. The Dallas team was broken up. It's not something new. It just happened."
Jason has long since moved on and now finds himself focused on the Mavericks as an opponent. He said that he's watched some tape of them and been impressed with the style of basketball they're playing, especially with star forward Dirk Nowitzki out with a knee injury.
"They're playing a little bit more up-tempo. They're playing extremely well. They're 4-1 without Dirk and that shows that they're a team that can play without their star. We have to be ready because they're offensive minded and they're a team that can put up a lot of points."
Friday's matchup pits the Knicks against another of the NBA's hottest teams, Dallas (Getty Images).
The Knicks have had plenty of time to prepare for Dallas with a big lull in their schedule since beating the Sixers on Monday night. After several days of practice, Jason feels they should be ready to go on Friday night.
"This is always a good time to sharpen our defense and offense, and get some rest before we play," he said of the break in the schedule. "We had three in four nights, then play [tonight] and then don't play again until Tuesday, so we know at some point in the schedule we're going to be playing a lot of games."
Friday's tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EDT and the game can be seen on MSG.