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EDITORIAL COLUMN   Rated "M" for Mature

You've got to be Kidd-ing me
By Tim Martin -- Reviews Editor
Published June 17, 2003
Previous Editions
A funny way to relieve some LeBron stress 6/15/03

When good sports games get old... 6/7/03

The morning after the NBA Finals concluded with the San Antonio Spurs' 88-77 victory over the New Jersey Nets, I was fully expecting talk of Tim Duncan's great performance or the end of David Robinson's wonderful career. But as I turned the dial to AM1000, ESPN Radio, all the discussion on the "Mike and Mike" show was whether the Spurs should pursue Nets' passing wizard Jason Kidd.

In a way, this discussion sort of disturbed me. The 2003 NBA Champion Spurs should be the news, not the 2004 version. But who can fault radio talk show hosts for changing the subject from the most uninspiring Finals in recent memory.

Nevertheless, the argument was interesting: how would the seemingly caffeine-loaded Kidd fit in with the methodicalness of the Spurs?

This Finals was supposedly the match up between the fast break offense of the Nets and the half court execution of the Spurs.

It was the tortoise versus the hare, and the damn tortoise won again.

Kidd's not bad in the half-court game, he's just not at his best. Would Kidd's breakneck style fit in well with the plodding styles of Duncan, Malik Rose and company? Where would Tony Parker and Speedy Claxton go? Would Kidd be willing to slow down for an NBA Championship?

Undoubtedly, I think Kidd could and would adjust to the Spurs given the opportunity.

"I can't, I can't," Kidd told the press after Game 6 when asked if he was returning to New Jersey next year. "I've got to play free agency out and I've got to look at all of my options. "It's always tough when you lose, especially at this stage in the season, because this is the one thing and one thing only -- that's the championship trophy."

But honestly, I don't think the Spurs should pursue Kidd, who would add another streaky shooter on a team that minus the two Steves (Kerr and Smith) are a below average jump shooting team at best. I would much rather see San Antonio keep Parker and build on what they have.

A Spurs/Kidd hook-up would be like buying a Camaro for city driving. Or purchasing that three thousand dollar Ford F150 to race Paul Walker and Vin Diesel.

Kidd is a proven leader and team guy, but there would be on-the-floor chemistry issues between the two. Which made me think.

I do this all the time in video games.

And there's no repercussions.

Who hasn't taken the Detroit Pistons and traded for Steve Nash or Kenyon Martin? Who hasn't traded away a few Dallas Maverick bench players for a player like Zydrunas Ilgauskas?

It's a perfect match. Half-court teams need open floor players and run-and-gun teams need post guys.

But in real life it's not that simple.

As far as individual players go, making a switch either by choice or by force to a team that doesn't play your style, can be disastrous. You can make a list as long as Sergio Garcia's pre-shot routine of former Chicago Bulls bench players who flamed out once they left the Windy City and the triangle offense.

Bill Wennington. Luc Longley. Jud Buechler. Randy Brown. Stacey King.

Currently, Jay Williams, who won national player of the year honors playing in Duke's spread offense, is suffering as an individual player because of the structured offense.

Anyone remember Nash when he was in the Charles Barkely era at Phoenix? What about Bobby Jackson's two years at Minnesota with ball hogging Kevin Garnett?

Nash and Jackson only flourished (and hopefully Williams) once they were put in the right offense.

The best example is Anthony Mason and the Milwaukee Bucks, the season after going to the conference finals. I see the Spurs possibly going down the same road if they acquire Kidd. The Bucks, with their fleet trio of Glenn Robinson, Sam Cassell and Ray Allen, were expecting NBA Finals in the 2002 season.

With the addition of the rough and tough Mason, the Bucks plugged a hole they needed. Or at least what they thought they needed.

It ended up that Milwaukee needed Mason, who turned the fast break offense slow with his point-forward, "wait for my slow ass to get down the floor" style, like they needed a bullet to the head.

In no way would Kidd be as disastrous as Mason if he joined the Spurs, but the team would suffer.

In a video game, contrasting styles of play almost no role. It IS possible. In football, could you use Drew Bledsoe as an option QB? My point is, if "It's in the game, it's in the game" why not put some rating into a basketball video game exemplifying styles?

How about this: a half-court offense rating and a fast break one. Two separate ratings that entail all the individual ratings like shooting, passing, dribbling, etc. that boost or subtract at certain times or instances of the game.

All too often, I see the invisible dividing line of successful half court and full court players diminished solely by the speed rating, and nothing else.

The only way a player won't be successful in the open floor is if they're too slow to get there.

Kidd in NBA 2k4 should be magical in the open floor. In transition, I wouldn't disagree with making him faster in certain situations. I also wouldn't be against bumping Kenyon Martin's awareness in the open floor either.

And on the same note, decreasing the skills of a half-court player like an Ilgauskas or Sabonis.

For any basketball fan worth his Phoenix Sun guerilla outfit, they know some players aren't that great in the open floor or vice versa. The great players obviously are good in both, and some bad players are bad in both.

But the majority of players succeed in one of the aforementioned styles over the other.

Now, how can a system like this, where a game would award players with certain tendencies in certain situations be implemented?

This is probably one of those "easier said than done" things, keeping in mind that most basketball games haven't gotten the pick and roll correct.

I've never designed a game, but here's how I would do it:

Transition basketball would be programmed or defined by having less than five players from both combined teams on one side of the floor. Most fast breaks are either 2 on 1 or 3 on 1, with 3 on 2 being the most. In this situation, give players like Kidd a marked advantage. The Nets score almost EVERY time when given this numbered advantage. So I say, make the players smarter. Have them fill lanes better instead of stopping at the free throw line. Have them time up their sprints down the court better so they will be in the right place at the right time, instead of waiting for defenders, which they usually do.

Once that sixth player crosses the court, make a subtle change back to the normal ratings. For anyone that plays basketball games, I think we are all in agreement that the fast break offense needs serious work. Maybe I'm untalented, but my fast break offense usually consists of a few long, uncoordinated passes, a couple of pump fakes and a lay up.

It's like watching the WNBA.

I want something fluid. I want pre-Finals Nets ball. And if the game has to resort to some type of ratings boost or cheat, that's fine with me.

Just anything, anything at all to tell the difference between Steve Kerr and Jason Kidd.

Because it won't be the uniform.

Rated "M" for Mature will return periodically.

Martin has worked at SGN since 1999 reviewing games, editing reviews, and conducting interviews; is a sports writer for the Kankakee (Ill.) Daily Journal; has covered sports and news for various newspapers; and worked at multi-platform and multi-console Armchair Empire. He has been published in both print and on the web.

If you have any comments or concerns on the column or suggestions for future columns, you can contact Tim through our: feedback page.

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