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Magic Has Grown Fond of This Kidd

June 06, 2002|SHAUN POWELL | Newsday

Before Magic Johnson took his courtside seat, the newly appointed Hall of Famer had one more assist to give. Let the record now show that No. 10,142 landed smack in the hands of Jason Kidd.

"He took the baton," Johnson said. "He's magic with the ball.

"What can I say? I'm Magic 1 and he's Magic 1-A.'

The NBA Finals returned to L.A., and for the first time in a decade, so did a three-dimensional point guard. Kidd played his first game since the Eastern Conference finals, where he averaged a triple-double against the Celtics. The last player to pull that off was just a bounce pass away from the Staples Center floor last night.

Johnson may still identify with the Lakers, but he admitted that he connects with a Net. As the once-lowly team from New Jersey made its way through the season, the playoffs and on to L.A. on the talents of Kidd, Johnson couldn't help but ask himself: Haven't I seen this before? "In a lot of ways," said Johnson, "we're so similar."

Not since 1975, when Rick Barry led the Warriors, has a team leaned so heavily on one player to win a title. Kidd is the core of the Nets' universe. He doesn't need to put up big scoring, rebounding or passing numbers, but he must do all three for the Nets to shake up a basketball nation. A bad performance by Kidd can only infect his teammates, just like a solid effort will lift them.

"He's one of the few players who makes his guys better," Johnson said. "I think there are only five or six left like that.

"We do one thing very well, something that most guys can't do," Magic said. "We get the rebound and we take off. That way, we've already beaten three guys down the floor. That's why New Jersey is so tough. You only think you can stop him if he isn't scoring. But there's no way you can really stop him."

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