- The Washington Times - Monday, February 25, 2002

Jason Kidd is the NBA's flavor of the moment, positioned to be the MVP, deserved or not.
The statistics tell one story, the Nets another, and it is imperative not to be too clear in the analysis, if Kidd is to be the MVP this season.
Kidd is one of the top point guards in the NBA, as always, just not the MVP. His old schoolyard buddy, Gary Payton, defers to no one in this regard, if clarity is essential to the process.
Kidd is aided by the history around him.
As one of the recovering lepers of the NBA, the Nets have become almost lovable, certainly fashionable, the landfills around them aside. Kidd and the Nets play just north of the dump formerly known as Elizabeth, N.J., next to the Jimmy Hoffa Burial Grounds, in a hole by the turnpike that goes with the environmentally challenged area.
Kidd and the Nets lead the junior varsity contingents of the Eastern Conference, however improbable that may seem.
The modesty of the opposition is one element in the team's ascent. The team's health, good as opposed to poor, is another element. Kidd merits no credit in either circumstance unless voters count a player's lucky-charm value.
The Nets starters lost 144 games to injuries last season. That resulted in a 26-56 record, the usual stuff there since the franchise joined the NBA in the 1976-77 season following the demise of the ABA and the red, white and blue ball.
Kerry Kittles, a sweet shooter, missed all 82 games last season because of a problematic right knee. Keith Van Horn missed 33 games, Stephon Marbury 15 games and Kenyon Martin 14 games. That's the season, no Kidd about it.
Kidd and Marbury exchanged uniforms, plus team chemistry in the offseason, if the whispers emanating from the locker room in Phoenix are vaguely credible. Marbury likes to shoot the ball, and there's not a thing Penny Hardaway can do about it, except grumble and live in the past.
Bryan Colangelo, the son of Jerry who has some Mr. Manners in him, was moved to make the questionable deal after Kidd and his wife held their child-rearing debate in public. Kidd passed a french fry to his wife's face for emphasis. The pass was made in poor taste, although it never was revealed if the fry was enhanced with ketchup and salt.
Marbury likes to shoot the ball more than Kidd, perhaps because Marbury shoots the ball well and Kidd shoots the ball with his fingers crossed.
Kidd was shooting .383 percent going into the Nets-Hornets game yesterday, which is the spot of dirt in the MVP sheen. His numbers this season are fairly in line with his career averages, and off his best season, in 1999, when he averaged 16.9 points, 10.8 assists, 6.8 rebounds and shot .444 percent from the field. Oddly, he never has been a serious MVP candidate in his seven previous seasons in the NBA.
Kidd is averaging 14.7 points, 10 assists and 7.4 rebounds this season, compared to his career averages of 14.1 points, 9.4 assists and 6.2 rebounds going into the season. Kidd scores high in the intangibles, mostly because teammates embrace a pass-first point guard. His defense is impeccable, his attitude professional, and he already holds the franchise record for triple-doubles, with six. That's All-Star work, no doubt, just not MVP work.
There would be no MVP clamoring if Kidd were still stranded in the Western Conference, where opponents are encouraged to cheer for a flareup of Shaquille O'Neal's arthritic big toe on his right foot. That is the opposition's best hope in the West, and no concern of Kidd and the Nets unless they advance to the NBA Finals.
The best basketball is being played west of the Mississippi River, and the best of the best, however you argue it, comes from there.
The MVP quest begins with O'Neal, depending on the condition of his toe the rest of the way. Kobe Bryant falls after O'Neal, followed by, in no particular order, Tim Duncan of the Spurs, Kevin Garnett of the Timberwolves and Dirk Nowitzki of the Mavericks.
This is no reflection on Kidd, a high-quality player who has brought joy to the joyless.
This is merely a telling distinction, pedestrian though it may be around the Kidd-propelled Nets.

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