Jason Kidd has brought the New Jersey Nets their greatest NBA success. He's also brought them a few headaches.
That's why the Nets say they can steer through the latest controversy created by their captain, who went public early in the week with his desire to get out of Jersey.
"We're not going to use anything as an excuse. I mean, let's face it, you could go around the league, and you go this year, he's not the first guy to ask for a trade," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "The last thing we're going to do is use this as an excuse. I mean, that's unacceptable."
After the Nets dropped all six games on a Western Conference road trip, extending their overall losing streak to nine, they returned home to find a story on ESPN.com in which Kidd said: "It used to be if I got a triple-double, that was an automatic win. That's just not the case now. We tried to make this work. We've found out it doesn't. It's time for us all to move on."
The Nets said that wouldn't bother them, and at least momentarily proved it by beating Milwaukee later that night.
"My job right now is to get us out of this hole that we've dug ourselves in, and this is the great challenge about coaching," Frank said before that game. "And quite frankly, we've been through different waters very similar to this over the last five years, so we look forward to the challenge."
Kidd led the Nets to the NBA finals in both 2002 and 2003, and he's turned the longtime losing franchise into one of the Eastern Conference's most consistent winners since arriving in a trade with Phoenix in 2001. But he hasn't always done it quietly.
Just last season, the Nets had to deal with Kidd's high-profile marital woes. He sat out a game against New York in December with what was called a migraine, sparking reports that he was trying to force the Nets to trade him or give him a contract extension....
What do you do after losses that make already bad seasons worse? Talk about the playoffs, of course.
At least, that's what teams do in the Eastern Conference, where a losing record doesn't mean losing hope. With two clubs well below .500 currently in playoff position, plenty of teams think they still have a chance even if they haven't earned one with their play on the court.
So after a loss to Utah on Wednesday dropped the New York Knicks to 0-3 on their road trip and 14-31 overall, guard Jamal Crawford opted to look at the bright side.
"I feel like we're playing better as a team. We're taking steps in the right direction," he said. "You know in the East we still have a shot. In the West, we'd be in trouble. In the East, you win five games in a row and you're right back in it."
He's right. Though the Knicks are 14th in the 15-team conference, they were only five games behind New Jersey, which held the eighth and final playoff spot despite a 19-26 record. In the West, New York would be 13 games back of Golden State, which occupied the last spot at 28-19.
A preseason favorite to win its division and compete for the East title, Chicago has been among the NBA's biggest disappointments. The Bulls already fired coach Scott Skiles, have been playing without injured stars Ben Gordon and Luol Deng, and fell to 18-27 after a loss to league-worst Minnesota on Wednesday.
Even with all that misery, they were only a game back of the Nets.
"It's been too late for us to be playing like this. We're trying to make a playoff run and we can't afford to have games like this," center Ben Wallace said. "Games like this set you back. Tonight was one of those nights when they came ready to play and we didn't. It's tough, but what are you going to do? We've just got to keep playing and try to make it happen."...
If Kidd is traded, the New Jersey Nets aren't the only ones who would need to figure out how to adjust. A trade, if it came soon, could also complicate things for the NBA.
If Kidd is dealt to a Western Conference team before All-Star weekend, two questions have to be answered: Who replaces him on the East roster, and does that person start?
For now, the league doesn't seem quite sure on the answer to either.
"That will be reviewed if it happens," spokesman Tim Frank said.
The easiest solution would be to add Boston's Ray Allen to the East roster, since he finished third behind Dwyane Wade and Kidd among East guards in fan voting and was perhaps the most notable omission when reserves were announced Thursday. But if that happens, it still isn't clear if Allen would be on the floor when the ball is tipped.
When players are forced to miss the game because of injuries, commissioner David Stern chooses their replacement. But even if the replacement is for a starter, the player Stern picks doesn't necessarily get a starting spot. The coach, who in this case is Doc Rivers, Allen's coach in Boston, decides which player moves into the starting five.
Things could have been even trickier if Kidd were dealt West before the starters were announced on Jan. 24, because a player's vote total carries over if he is traded. With more than 1.2 million votes, Kidd finished a little more than 43,000 ahead of Denver's Allen Iverson, who landed the second guard spot in the West. The league would have had to determine if Kidd would have inherited that spot instead. ...
For almost two months, the Trail Blazers were unbeatable at home, winning 12 straight. But losses in two out of their last three games at Rose Garden, including an 84-83 loss to Cleveland on Wednesday, had the team wondering what went wrong.
Channing Frye thinks he has a diagnosis.
"I think teams are playing us different we're considered a good win now," he said.
Frye said the Blazers might have lost some ground on a recent road trip that saw them play seven games in 12 days, leaving little time to practice and make adjustments. Plus, teams are more familiar with their personnel now that Portland got so much attention during its winning streak.
"Teams are giving us different looks now trapping (Brandon) Roy, stuff like that," Frye said.