- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 5, 2002

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) Derek Fisher calls Jason Kidd the true MVP.
Rick Fox says the New Jersey Nets' star is perhaps his favorite player to watch.
And Devean George likens arguably the NBA's finest all-around point guard since Magic Johnson to a blur.
Kidd has been the major factor in the dramatic turnaround of the Nets, who went from a 26-56 record and the draft lottery last season to a 52-30 mark and their first berth in the NBA Finals this season.
He's the one player the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers realize they must slow down if they're going to three-peat, and they sang his praises yesterday.
"Jason is basically the head of the team," said Fisher, who figures to be guarding Kidd more than anyone else in the finals, which begin tonight at Staples Center. "From an emotional standpoint, he really gave them a boost from the moment he got there. You can't stop players like that. You almost want Jason to score because it eliminates assists, rebounds, things like that."
Acquired from Phoenix last summer in a five-player deal that sent Stephon Marbury to the Suns, the 29-year-old Kidd became the first player since 1967 to record three triple-doubles in a playoff series in leading the Nets past the Boston Celtics 4-2 in the Eastern Conference finals.
"I have a deep appreciation of a player who doesn't have scoring first on his mind," Fox said. "He can score when he wants. He thinks pass first. That kind of play is contagious."
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he plans to defend Kidd "by committee," with the 6-foot-1 Fisher no doubt getting first crack.
Kobe Bryant, Brian Shaw and Lindsey Hunter also figure to get their shot, and small forwards Fox and George will likely help out at times.
"It doesn't matter who guards him, you have to get back and stop the ball that's the first rule against Jason Kidd," Jackson said.
Said Hunter: "By far, he's the best he's been nothing short of outstanding. He's averaged a triple-double in the playoffs. I mean, who's the last person to do that? Magic? So if you're mentioned in the same breath as that type of guy, you have to be the best."
Actually the 6-foot-4, 212-pound Kidd, who finished second in the MVP voting behind San Antonio's Tim Duncan, has averaged 19.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.9 assists in 16 postseason games.
"It's truly amazing what he's done," teammate Donny Marshall said. "You get into the whole MVP thing, no matter who received the trophy, I think everyone around the league knows who the MVP is."
Marshall said the numbers are only a part of it.
"The things behind the scenes are what really make him special, the kind of caring he brings to you, to each player," he said.
The Lakers saw plenty of Kidd during his seven years in the Western Conference 2 years with Dallas and 4 with the Suns. As good as he was then, this was probably his best season.
"I don't think he's ever played at this level," Marshall said.
Said George: "It's going to be a real challenge for us, a guy of his speed, quickness and size. Obviously, the first thing is to get back on defense and help each other. You've got to run, run, run to get back."


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