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NBA / Nov 27, 2012 / 2:00 pm

Why 39-Year-Old Jason Kidd Is So Important To The Knicks

Jason Kidd

Jason Kidd, Dime #40

Last night’s battle of the boroughs is all New Yorkers can talk about today. The New York Post had the “Lords of Flatbush” headline after Brooklyn’s win; the Daily News went with the “Battle of Hooplyn.” Since it was such a big game for the regional battle of New York, it makes sense it would dominate headlines. What doesn’t make sense, at least in terms of age, is how important Jason Kidd has become to New York’s late-game lineup.

Last night Kidd sat out the game for a typical geriatric issue: a sore back. But his absence and the subsequent Knicks loss from across the East River lends even more credence to his importance for the Knicks. Whether a 39-year-old can be an integral part of a title team remains to be seen, but we’ll leave the consequences of his import for the Knicks as a title contender, to others. What we do know is Kidd has been vital for the Knicks success so far this year, and it came to a head last night.

Quantitative claims of Kidd’s significance can be attributed to New York’s increased offensive production when he’s on the court. With Kidd, the Knicks average 118.7 points per 100 possessions. Without Kidd, the Knicks average 105.5 points per 100 possessions, via 82games.com. The Knicks give up more points with Kidd on the floor too – 106.8 with him on the court compared with 102.8 with him off – but that’s an insignificant loss in conjunction with all the added offense. Kidd’s simple rating is the best on the team with Carmelo Anthony next in line, and he’s only behind Tyson Chandler and ‘Melo in PER, with the third best mark of his career, at 21.3, per Basketball-reference. What does Kidd bring to the Knicks that they’re missing when he’s off the court, or injured, like he was with his achy back last night?

The primary difference is one of leadership. Speciously, ‘Melo is the Knicks leader, but Kidd has the moxie and the big game experience to do all the little things necessary to put the Knicks in a place to succeed. Carmelo might carry their offense, but it’s Kidd that initiates it. Kidd will also – like he’s done throughout his Hall of Fame career – make the extra pass, or he’ll set up beyond the arc to space the floor. He has the second most three-pointers in history after struggling to hit the broadside of a barn earlier in his career, and his shooting accuracy (he’s sporting an effective field goal percentage of 75 percent from long range, per Hoopdata) has been instrumental in opening up the Knicks offense after it comes to a rest during Anthony’s head fake/jab step routine. Never was this more evident than in last night’s loss to the Nets.

At the end of regulation, Kidd is usually the Knicks’ floor general in tight games. Last night, that distinction belonged to Raymond Felton. With 1:27 to play and the Knicks ahead 84-83, Felton took a ten-foot jumper that may have been tipped by his defender from behind. It fell way short of the basket, and even though Felton tracked down his rebound and tried to save it from falling out of bounds, it never touched any glass or iron so it was a travel. Then after Chandler drew a questionable offensive foul on Brook Lopez at the other end, the Knicks ran a strange set following their ensuing timeout. Felton ran off an elbow screen, and again fired a jumper. This one at least hit iron, but it still missed. Two big possessions, and two shots by Felton without a single other Knick, including a pretty accurate Carmelo Anthony, touching the ball.

It’s not that Raymond Felton is particularly bad; although, on a night where he shot 3-for-19 from the field, you’d think he’d get others more involved during the last minute and half of the game. Kidd also would have waited until there was less time on the clock before getting the ball to Anthony for the last shot of the game. You can be sure the offense down the stretch would have run through Kidd, and as a consequence, Anthony or Steve Novak would have gotten open looks, or even Kidd himself would have been a better option to shoot than Felton’s clunky midrange jumpers.

Jason Kidd is a Hall of Fame player in the twilight of his career, but like the ubiquitous Stephanie Meyer movies, his twilight has been pretty bright. We’ve watched him all year with this high-scoring Knicks team, and it came to a head last night in Brooklyn: Jason Kidd is a primary component of their offensive success.

Nets coach Avery Johnson should probably send Kidd a bouquet of flowers, because his truancy handed Johnson his first borough battle. Knicks fans have to be slightly perturbed about future fortunes tied so closely to a guy turning 40 this March. Let’s hope Kidd’s back is OK, and he’s playing in their next close game.

How important is Kidd to New York’s success this year?

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