Thursday, March 5, 2009

When evaluating point guards, the key is whether they make their teammates better

In case you missed it, Jason Kidd just passed the great Oscar Robertson on the NBA's all-time assist list. He'll likely pass Magic Johnson this season, as well, to move into the third spot among assist leaders. [John Stockton is the NBA's all-time assist leader with 15,806.]

But as this article by Jan Hubbard points out, Kidd is more than someone who distributes the ball. He "is the current active leader among all NBA players in career steals," and "among point guards, Kidd is the third best rebounder in history. Only Oscar Robertson (7.5) and Magic Johnson (7.2) are ahead of Kidd (6.7)."

According to longtime NBA coach Del Harris, the measuring stick for point guards is how they impact the guys they play with.

"When we evaluate point guards, the biggest thing is whether they make their teammates better. And when you have 10,000 assists, you obviously made a lot of folks better."

[Kidd, by the way, is quick to deflect praise for reaching the 10,000-assist mark, saying, that it's "a credit to every teammate I’ve ever played with because I can’t get an assist unless someone else scores."]

NJ Nets coach Lawrence Frank describes Kidd as "an elite defender" with "unbelievable strong hands."

"He has a sixth sense about where the ball’s going to be. So he gets to virtually every loose ball. He anticipates where the ball is coming off the rim and he can anticipate where passes are going."

Much of what Kidd does on the court doesn't show up on the stat sheet. Hubbard contends that Kidd is often underappreciated because he "makes so many plays with no TV cameras focused on him."

According to DAL owner Mark Cuban, it's not until you see him in person that "you get a full appreciation for what he does. No one covers the court from end to end like J-Kidd."

"Unless you understand the game and unless you are there, you don’t see all the things he does," said Nets president Rod Thorn. "He’s got an innate sense like a Wayne Gretzky in hockey. He just knows where the ball is coming and because of his strength, he’s always able to get it. If you see him and a big man get to the ball and get their hands on it at the same time, Jason’s usually going to get it. The great thing about his statistics is that he doesn’t care about them. He doesn’t care if other point guards have great stats against him. He just wants to win. And that will to win is what has set him apart and made him a great player."

Nearly 36-years-old, Kidd says he stays in shape by getting plenty of sleep, working out in the pool (to reduce stress on his knees, laying off fried foods, and not eating much red meat.

As for his hands, he "attributes his strength to his father, who kept horses in the backyard of their Oakland home when Kidd was growing up."

"I always had to do chores and lift bales of hay," Kidd said. "I was always scared of the hooks, so I would just lift the hay with my hands. Doing that sort of thing helped develop what some people have called heavy hands."