via NY Times
The concept of superstars conspiring to form a dynasty is not really new, nor is it only done by the “villains.” In 2003, after San Antonio defeated the New Jersey Nets led by Jason Kidd. The Spurs thought of pairing Kidd and Duncan (both were at their young primes) and forming a dynasty. While it wasn’t a direct trade, the Spurs’ young, ultra-talented French playmaker resented the move, almost demanding the team to choose between him or Kidd.
As Kidd retires and we celebrate the heroics of Tony Parker in Game 1, one might wonder, who might we be watching in the Finals today if this actually materialized.
per NY Times:
In the lead-in to Game 1 of the N.B.A. finals Thursday night, which Tony Parker helped steal from the Miami Heat, 92-88, much was made of how he became the driving force of the San Antonio Spurs, the little engine that could replace Tim Duncan in that role.
A decade ago, in a muscular and moneyed move that belied their reputation as the most prudent and prescient of small-market franchises, the Spurs did everything they could to replace Parker with the league’s premier point guard, Jason Kidd.
So when Parker followed Coach Gregg Popovich to the podium during Wednesday’s news conferences after Popovich spoke of the best free-agent signing he never made, Parker told him, “I heard the bad things you were saying about me.”
Not one to let sarcasm go unrequited, Popovich said: “You’re lucky. Kidd could be sitting there.”
Where would the Spurs be today had they persuaded Kidd to trade the view of the New York City skyline from Bergen County, N.J., for the towering sight of Duncan on the low block in San Antonio? How would the decade have played out had Kidd grown old and leg weary as he was at 40 with the Knicks in the playoffs before announcing his retirement this week?
Popovich knew where the question was leading and — credentialed coach that he is — decided he had no interest in following. “Your question infers that there was an either/or, and that would be false,” he said.
Popovich explained that he foresaw Parker, who in two seasons had established an ability to score off the dribble before his 21st birthday, shifting to the shooting guard position to make room for Kidd.
“I thought that Jason Kidd being there, being the mentally tough person that he is and with his skills, would be the greatest education for Tony Parker,” Popovich said. “And Tony can go play the 2; he was a scoring guard, anyway. As Jason gets older, let him move over to the 2; let Tony take 1. Brilliant, brilliant. Let’s go get this thing done.”
Popovich laughed, presumably at himself.
“Tony did not love that idea at all,” he said. “We still tried to do it. And Jason didn’t come.”
After two unsuccessful Nets runs to the finals — the second one against the Spurs, immediately preceding their run at him — Kidd resisted the temptation to team with Duncan on a defending champion. He stayed in New Jersey, a move he came to regret when the Nets were sold to the developer Bruce Ratner and plans for a move to Brooklyn began with reducing costs.
We’ll never know if the Spurs would have fouled up a blueprint that would produce additional titles in 2005 and 2007, and a return to the finals this season with Parker, now 31.
Popovich’s protests notwithstanding, there is no way to assume that Parker would have thrived in or embraced the role beside Kidd. He struggled against the Nets in the 2003 finals and most likely would have interpreted the Kidd signing as a demotion.
Then there is the issue of how the Spurs would have kept Parker and/or Manu Ginobili if they had added a top-of-the-scale, multiyear contract for Kidd to go along with the franchise player, Duncan. Somebody would have become expendable, most likely Parker, with Kidd still in his prime.
It is also possible that the Spurs, with Kidd, might have won more championships during those years at the expense of the Lakers. But they certainly would have compacted their contending era and perhaps even lost Duncan to retirement by now.