Though many of the Knicks met with the media on Saturday night (following the team’s playoff elimination loss to the Pacers) as well as Monday afternoon to discuss the end to their season, Jason Kidd was not one of them.
The future Hall of Famer opted not to speak with reporters, avoiding even further scrutiny than he had previously fallen under, having not scored a single point in his final ten playoff games.
Thus, the point guard left his teammates, coaches, and General Manager Glen Grunwald to perhaps cushion his recent struggles, all the while pondering what his next plan of action will be.
After speaking Kidd, both Grunwald and Mike Woodson have asserted they believe he will return to the Knicks next season. With two more seasons on the three-year pact he signed with New York last summer, Kidd is technically obligated to do so.
But whether or not they truly want him back is the real question. Though Kidd fizzled out and became invisible during the playoffs, his impact was undoubtedly felt less during the final weeks of the regular season than it was earlier on.
Kidd finished the season with an average of nearly 27 minutes played per contest. Originally only expected to take on a reserve role and play 20-24 minutes each game, Coach Woodson called upon Kidd from the very beginning. The guard was thrust into the Knicks’ starting lineup as the squad dealt with injuries to the likes of Iman Shumpert and Raymond Felton in the season’s early months.
There’s no denying Kidd served as the consummate pro as he came up in the clutch for the Knicks again and again. He was a key to what stood as the team’s strongest start in over a decade. But there’s also no denying that at 40 years old, his mind and body has a lot of basketball miles on it.
While Kidd may still be able to make worthy contributions to a basketball team, he’s admittedly much closer to riding out into greener pastures than he is carrying a team back to greatness. His specialities on and off the court could have better utilized in bunches, but Coach Woodson relied upon him for much more than simply a few minutes each game. He was leaned on and asked to be much more than a mentor to the team’s other guards.
After all, what other option(s) did Woodson and the Knicks have? The team’s makeup was that of older proven veterans, pretty much from top to bottom. They believed Kidd and company had enough in their tanks to keep them chugging along through a steady playoff run.
Perhaps they were wrong, as New York’s early round two exit to the Pacers would suggest. Woodson rode Kidd for all he had, so it’s sensible to say there’s a good chance he’s a bit burned out. Did the Knicks use up all that was left in Kidd’s basketball tank? His teammates hope extra free time in the offseason to clear his head and relax in The Hamptons will do him some good.
But should (and can) Kidd return to the team in a playing capacity? That’s the real question, and the answer is certainly up for debate, given how he ended the year.
The future Hall of Famer’s teammates and coaches would like him back, but will Kidd be ready and able come September? Given everything that’s been said about the guard and his arguable over-useage over the last few months, perhaps he won’t be.
The $6 plus million that Kidd is owed over the next two seasons holds the Knicks obviously accountable for his salary. His contract, along with the contract of Marcus Camby, prevent New York from really exploring further reliable options to add to the team in time for a more serious run next season. Based on their recent early exit, clearly they could use the extra help.
If he’s going to return, Kidd will need to be fresh and his conditioning will need to improve. What’s more, Coach Woodson will have to preserve his minutes and carefully calculate the proper ways to insert him into games. Two smart basketball minds, perhaps the pair will be able to come up with the perfect formula for ensuring Kidd remains effective and efficient.
But should Kidd not be up to speed come training camp, the right thing to do will be to hang up that Knicks uniform and negotiate a buyout. It was a great season, and in a perfect world, everyone in the Big Apple would like to see him back. He simply needs to figure out what the right thing to do for he, his family, and the team really is.
If Kidd does in fact call it quits, make no mistake: his ongoing value will be considered and the Knicks will likely attempt to keep him on in some capacity. The likes of Baron Davis, Chris Smith, and most recently, Rasheed Wallace, have all been kept in the Knicks’ circle and have remained committed to being there for the team when their bodies could not guarantee the same.
Additionally, Mike Woodson is likely to offer Kurt Thomas a spot on his coaching staff next season, should the big man ultimately decide to retire as well. Surely, whether it be on the coaching staff, in the front office, or even on the court, there will be a spot on the Knicks for Jason Kidd. It’s just a point of figuring out what that’ll be.