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Re-Signing Kidd Is Key for Nets


The Lakers have already done their part in turning these NBA Finals to dust, throttling what should have been the grandest week in New Jersey's basketball history, sucking all the mystery out of the series.

The shame of that extends beyond whether the Nets can steal a game at the Meadowlands this week, thereby granting the locals three chances to witness the NBA Finals in their backyard, rather than the two the rest of the basketball world has already consigned them.

Because once the Finals end, the Nets will engage in a new kind of grueling fun, a parlor game that will extend across 13 torturous months. You can play along, too, slipping on one of those wristbands favored by so many basketball players and altering ever so slightly the meaning of "W.W.J.D."

To this: "What Will Jason Do?"

Jason Kidd has been nothing if not consistent in his replies to the incessant questions about his future. Yes, he says, his family likes it in New Jersey. Yes, he likes his teammates. No, he has no intention of waiving his contractual right to free agency. No, he will not allay your fears even one day sooner. He's going to see what's Out There.

Get used to it.

"I think this is definitely going to be the last contract I sign as a pro basketball player and I just want to make certain it's the right decision, for me and for my family," Kidd said the other day. It was only the latest version of the same speech he's delivered since July, the observations of a careful basketball diplomat.

Earlier this week, I asked Net President Rod Thorn--whose happy mission it will be to play the point man in this year-long quest to lock up his point guard--if this reminds him of talking to the prettiest girl in high school, wondering if she really likes you or is just being nice to you.

"No," Thorn said with a laugh. "It's much more important than that."

Kidd has revealed only one clue about what the winning bidder must offer for him to sign at the bottom of a loaded contract in July 2003: A chance to win an NBA championship.

So where does that leave the Nets?

On the precipice of the most important summer in franchise history.

To bump the Nets closer to the Lakers' class, Thorn needs to land an Antonio McDyess, a Vin Baker, maybe even a Kevin Garnett, whose name has circulated in mega-deal possibilities the last few weeks. But altering the makeup of this roster means parting with some of the players who helped build this remarkable run.

But no gamble is too great if it keeps Kidd happy, and if it makes the Nets more competitive in the Finals the next time around. Especially since, without Kidd, it will be a long, lonely time before there ever is a next time around.

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