By John Schmeelk
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Last night Jason Kidd put on a basketball clinic and it was beautiful to watch. It has been a long time since I’ve seen a guy control a basketball game whenever he was on the floor without being a primary scorer like Kidd did last night. He did every little thing a basketball player could do to help the Knicks win a game without Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton. JR Smith might get all the credit for the game winner, but that was Kidd’s game from the get-go.
Plus/Minus can be a deceiving statistic, but last night it is the perfect demonstration of just how did Jason Kidd was. In just 31 minutes he was a +13, by far the best rating on the team. Pablo Prigioni, Kidd’s backup, was -11 when he was on the court. That’s a 24 point swing depending on which point guard was on the floor. Even JR Smith, the Knicks leading scorer, was just -2.
Kidd hit half his shots (8-16), shot 5-8 from behind the arc, dished out eight assists, grabbed six rebounds and scored 23 points. On one rebound in the fourth quarter he simply took the ball out of Jermaine O’Neal’s hands. On the Suns final possession he deflected a Sebastian Telfair pass that would have resulted in a dunk for Marcin Gortat. On JR Smith’s game winner he threw an absolutely perfect in bounds bounce pass so JR Smith could easily catch, turn and shoot. He made winning plays.
The Knicks are going to need more of that with Raymond Felton out for an extended period with his fractured pinky. But Jason Kidd cannot do it alone. His 31 minutes last night should be the most he gets on a nightly basis. His very old legs need to be conserved so he has something left for the postseason. That means Pablo Prigioni has to start getting 20 minutes a game, and play a lot better than he did against Phoenix. He turned it over four times and had trouble getting the pick and roll going. Granted he was trying to run it with Marcus Camby, a far cry from Tyson Chandler or a returning Amar’e Stoudemire.
Enough can’t be said about the job Glen Grunwald has done this season bringing in quality players to fill out the team up to the absolute final guy on the roster. Chris Copeland and James White have already proven their value. Pablo Prigioni is going to be very important while Raymond Felton is down. Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas, and now Marcus Camby have been keys in replacing Amar’e Stoudemire and backing up Tyson Chandler.
But in truth, perhaps the biggest difference maker of them all this year has been Jason Kidd. He looked washed up last year, but at some point in the offseason he either found the Fountain of Youth or built a DeLorean. He has brought and unselfish professionalism to the team that has rubbed off on everyone on the roster. His ball movement is infectious. He is a coach on the floor and a leader in the locker room. He has been a pleasure to watch.
– I can’t finish this story without giving JR Smith his props. His shot selection is improved, but still makes you shake your fist in the air more than you would like when he launches a step-back from 22 feet away. But he has the guts to take the big shot and the skill to make it. He is one of the better bad shot shooters in the league. Like I’ve said, he’s the new John Starks. (link to Starks story here)
– Felton’s injury might also free up some time for Amare Stoudemire. It seems counter-intuitive but this is how it will work. With Felton hurt the Knicks wills stop using dual point guard lineups. That means more time for JR Smith at the two, with Carmelo Anthony back at his more traditional small forward spot. You’ll see that more and more especially if Ronnie Brewer continues to be so bad on offense and Iman Shumpert is still working back from his knee injury.
– Chris Copeland can score. Steve Novak better continue being productive because while Copeland isn’t as good of a spot up shooter, he is much more versatile and can score in a bunch of different ways. He was another great add by Glen Grunwald.
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Do you think Jason Kidd can continue this play for the remainder of the season? Let us know below.