I’ve been receiving a lot of flack around here lately for ignoring the New Jersey Nets. Apparently, there are at least several people in the area who are fans of the Nets, which, I have to admit – I did not know. People are funny like that sometimes, like when they root for the Nets. The major sentiment among Nets’ fans is – they’re the local team, an actual New Jersey team, and they deserve our support. Also, they happen to be one of the better teams in the NBA. Okay. Counterpoint: They’re the Nets. They’ve been a brutal franchise for a quarter century, and now that they’re good, they’re most likely abandoning the Garden State for Brooklyn. Whatever side you may fall on, it is true that I have not paid them their due attention over these past few years, and thus, I’ve failed as a journa-…person. To make up for it, I’ve contacted the Nets’ super-duper guard Jason Kidd for an exclusive interview. He was as surprised as I was to find out about these “Nets fans,” and thus, agreed to sit down.
Me: Hey Jason! Welcome…
Kidd: Thanks for having me.
Me: J-Kidd, can I call you “J-Kidd?” My brain now automatically manufactures nicknames that are nothing other than the first letter of someone’s first name, combined with at least a part of their last name. Since your last name is only one syllable anyway, I literally had to put no thought into that whatsoever, which is perfect for me.
Me: J-Kidd, you’ve been known to make everyone around you better. Do you think you can try your best to make me better today? Because I’ve done absolutely no preparation for this interview. I’m a mess, honestly. I left my cell phone at 7-Eleven this morning, and I’m totally hung over. You play for the Nets, right?
Me: What’s that like?
Kidd: It’s fun, I guess.
Me: Nice. You started your NBA career playing for the Dallas Mavericks, where you formed a rap group called the “J boys,” featuring yourself, Jamal Mashburn, and what’s-his-name Jackson. Do you remember that?
Kidd: It wasn’t a rap group, and it sure as heck wasn’t called the “J boys.” It was something the media had dubbed the three of us – Triple J – and yeah, it was me, Mash, and Jimmy Jackson.
Me: It didn’t really work out for you and the J boys though, did it? You know what they say about too many guys whose name begins with “J” trying to play basketball together…
Kidd: No, I don’t. What?
Me: I don’t know either. That they suck? I thought maybe you would know. Geez, J-Kidd, so far, you are not making this interview better.
Kidd: My bad.
Me: Of course you’re aware of the long-standing rumor that it was singer Toni Braxton that broke up the J boys. Tell me about that.
Kidd: Never heard of her.
Me: Of course not. Janet Jackson seemed to be the obvious choice there. Way to mess that up. Okay, then. After a forgettable stint with the Phoenix Suns, you were traded to the Nets for Stephon Marbury. How did it feel to be traded for the best point guard ever? A big ego boost, I’m sure.
Kidd: For him, maybe.
Me: In your first game as a Net, you shattered Yinka Dare’s career assist record. Was this a harbinger of things to come? And if so, what is a harbinger?
Kidd: I think it’s like, foreshadowing or something. But yeah, I think it was. I mean, we started off so strong back in 2002, that we forced people to take us seriously right out of the gate. From that point on, we were able to keep it going.
Me: The Nets were always like, the worst franchise ever. Even the Arizona Cardinals would be like, “Man, the Nets stink.” But then you come along and – Kazaam! – you’re in the NBA Finals. Do you take all the credit for the recent Nets’ run of success, or just 95 percent of it?
Kidd: I’m just a small part of this whole thing. The success we’ve had recently has been a result of a lot of things – Rod Thorn making some great moves, Richard Jefferson emerging as a star, getting Vince, and great coaching. I’ve only accounted for like, 91 percent of this, honestly.
Me: You are dropping a triple-double of modesty on me right now, J-Kidd. Talk about your coach, Lawrence Frank. What does he do?
Kidd: He coaches us. What do you mean?
Me: Really though, look at him. What could he possibly tell you guys that you don’t already know? I always imagine your practices going something like,” Uhhh, J – yeah, run the ball up the floor, and…throw it to Vince. Vince – dunk it. If Vince isn’t open, give it to RJ. RJ – dunk it. Keep doing that. And Collins – make yourself useful and try and grab a rebound or something, will ya’? I’ll be back in two hours, I have to get my muffler fixed.”
Kidd: No, man. Coach doesn’t get nearly enough credit for the job he does. He keeps us running like a well-oiled machine.
Me: Here’s something I’ve always wanted to ask you. When the Nets drafted Richard Jefferson, did you talk to him on the phone, and were you like, “Okay. We’re getting Tom Gugliotta. I can live with that.” And then you actually saw him, and you were like, “Wait a second…”
Kidd: Honestly? Yeah! I was blown away. I thought we were getting a spot-up shooter, and then I see this guy whizzing around the court as if it were some kind of athletic ballet. After speaking to him on the phone, I wasn’t even thinking about alley-oops. So yeah, it was a great surprise.
Me: Let’s talk about you for a sec here. Before every foul shot, you blow a kiss into the air out of respect for the Notorious B.I.G. How did that start?
Kidd: That kiss is for my son.
Me: Oh, really? Is he a rapper?
Kidd: He’s eight.
Me: Interesting. Speaking of rappers, the owner of the Nets is a rapper, is he not? I keep hearing that he’s retired, but I see him everywhere. He must have a very different view of retirement than I do, which involves me, a couch, and boxes of Polly-O String Cheese.
Kidd: Yes, his name is Jay-Z. He’s a cool guy.
Me: Did you know that I’ve been writing a dope rhyme about the New Jersey Nets over the past few years? It’s not finished yet, though. Wanna hear it?
Kidd: Not really.
Me: The Nets are here / You better stand clear / We’re a well-oiled machine / Yo, watch me set this screen / Nenad Krstic, got his balls to the wall / Don’t (bleep) with Mile Illic, unless you wanna brawl / Marcus Williams, he’s a super shooter / He’ll steal the ball, and then your computer…That’s all I have right now.
Kidd: That’s hot.
Me: J-Kidd, you’ve had some – oh, how should I put this? – domestic issues. Are you hoping that everyone forgets about this by the time you are inducted into the Hall of Fame, kind of like what happened with Warren Moon? If so, sorry I brought it up.
Kidd: No, I don’t expect anyone to forget. I made a mistake and I apologized. That was a long time ago, and we’ve both moved on. It will never happen again.
Me: If I were you, I’d blow a kiss to my wife on that foul line too. Ya’ know, just in case.
Kidd: Just in case what?
Me: I don’t know. Forget I said anything. J-Kidd, when information surfaced that the Nets were most likely moving to Brooklyn, you stated that you had signed to play in New Jersey, not New York. How would it feel to abandon a fan base that can’t sellout a playoff game?
Kidd: Well, first of all, I don’t even know if we’re moving to Brooklyn anymore. Nobody knows anything, because nobody is saying anything. Do you know anything?
Me: Me? Geez, no. I don’t know anything. I could ask around, though. My in-laws are from Brooklyn – they might know something.
Kidd: Thanks, I’d appreciate that.
Me: No problem. J-Kidd, your New Jersey Nets are currently in first place in the Atlantic division, with an 8-12 overall record. Are you guys playing this crappy just to make Isiah think that his team is moderately competitive? Or, has nobody informed Vince Carter that he’s in a contract year? Maybe somebody should tell him, like, as soon as possible.
Kidd: We are working on playing better basketball. And Vince plays hard every game.
Me: By “every game” do you mean almost every game?
Me: Okay, one last question before we go, ya’ know, for all the Nets’ fans out there. Wink, wink. When are the Nets finally going to win a championship, so we can have that much-anticipated parade through the abandoned parking lots of East Rutherford, New Jersey?
Kidd: This year, man. This is the year we go all the way!
Me: Okay. Whatever. Can you drive me to 7-Eleven?