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Who is he Kidding? Ex-Nets star Jason Kidd quit on team before trade to Mavs

Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Kidd bites his jersey during the first half of a game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Kidd was traded from New Jersey.
Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Kidd bites his jersey during the first half of a game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Kidd was traded from New Jersey.
Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press

The paycheck should be enough, right? Millions of direct-deposit dollars should represent the only source of motivation needed for the professional athlete in search of a cause.

But that's fantasy league logic. Real-world circumstance tells us that ballplayers who aren't employed by championship contenders, who don't have passionate fan bases, and who barely cling to the false hopes tethered to the last playoff seed often strike an uninspired pose.

Ballplayers like the Nets.

They know they can't win it all. They know the franchise is focusing on a who-knows-when move to Brooklyn. And they know that missing the postseason for the first time since 2001 would be met by a sweeping wave of indifference back home.

They should also know this: Jason Kidd believes they amount to a circle of losers and fools.

Now that's a cause that should boil every Net's blood. Players, coaches, executives, everyone who was told by Kidd's trade demand (to the Lakers) last year, and his trade demand (to the Mavericks) this year, that they weren't good enough for his Hall of Fame game.

"When you cut through all the nuances," Rod Thorn said Thursday, "that's exactly what Jason said. 'I don't want to play with you guys. You're not good enough. Let me out of here."'

The Nets should never forget that. They should never forget Kidd quit on them as clearly as Stephon Marbury quit on the Knicks.

Kidd was just a little smarter in covering his morale-busting tracks.

The Nets played the Mavericks in Dallas on Saturday night. Kidd and his former teammates were cordial to one another. All have said that they will continue to be friends and that there are no hard feelings for the charming star who once led the Nets to back-to-back NBA Finals.

Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter and the rest play along, if only because it's easier to fake it with a former friend than to confront him on the errors of his ways. But Jefferson and Carter need to understand something: Kidd couldn't wait to get as far away from them as he could.

Kidd didn't believe they were championship material, and this epiphany didn't just hit him like a blind pick last month. In the middle of last season, Kidd was pushing Thorn to deal him into Kobe Bryant's backcourt. "And he was very adamant about it," Thorn said.

Kidd was adamant he wanted to play with people other than Jefferson and Carter.

First it was Kobe, then it was Dirk Nowitzki. Kidd came up with a mystery migraine and boycotted a Knicks game at home as part of a master plan to get out and get out fast. Later, he went public with his desire to leave East Rutherford in his wake, and burned the same bridges he burned on earlier exits from Dallas and Phoenix.

Thorn was furious with Kidd. If he could've traded his point guard to the Timberwolves or Grizzlies, he would have.

"From my perspective," Thorn said, "some things you just don't forget. But you go on and trades happen and players don't stay in places forever. I'm worried about the team I have right now, not the team I had three weeks ago."

The team Kidd tried to steer off an exit ramp and into the swamp.

Thursday, Kidd was quoted in the New York Daily News swearing he never quit on his team, never tempered his drive to win, never did anything for the Nets but spill them a river of blood, sweat and tears.

His claims were no more credible than his migraine. He took a clear shot at his coach, Lawrence Frank, when he said, "New Jersey has no identity. That was my whole thing. Are we a running team? Are we a half-court team? What are we? I don't think they still know."

This would be the same Lawrence Frank Kidd got hired by front-stabbing Byron Scott, now in New Orleans and the man who should be named Coach of the Year.

Kidd still maintains he had nothing to do with Scott's firing. Yeah, and Roger Clemens had nothing to do with HGH.

Kidd is pretty good at running circles around the truth, almost as good as he is at running a three-on-one fast break. He's questioned Thorn's commitment to excellence, and the Nets' president the very executive who converted a joke franchise into a two-time Finalist would not let the suggestion go unanswered.

"My aspiration has always been to win a championship," Thorn said. "Did we have a team good enough to win a championship this year with Jason? No, but that's what we were trying to do."

The Nets still have enough to make the postseason this year, if only because the bowels of the Eastern Conference playoff race smell so hopelessly foul. But here's the funny part: The Mavericks are no lock to make it in the high-powered West.

"They've got a terrific team," Thorn said. "I'd be shocked if they don't make it."

Shocked but not devastated. Asked if he would be upset if Kidd's Mavs failed to qualify for the tournament, Thorn laughed and said, "No comment."

The Nets can only put a temporary dent in Kidd's designs Saturday night. If they need a long-term cause to inspire their own playoff push, the Nets should remember that their playmaker didn't give them any assist on his way out the door.