Game 6 may be Kidd's last with Nets

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Spurs try to claim NBA crown tonight at home.

By Chris Sheridan ~ The Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO -- Jason Kidd was due to arrive here at 3:45 p.m. Saturday.

He may return to New Jersey after Game 6 tonight, or he could stay through Wednesday night if the Nets force a Game 7.

Or, he might just stick around for six years.

"I thought I played a pretty good game if that was my last game here. We'll see," Kidd, who will be a free agent this summer, said after Game 5 Friday night in New Jersey.

As Kidd spoke those words from the interview room podium shortly before midnight, his 4-year-old son, T.J., fidgeted on his lap.

T.J. was sending signals.

He yawned several times, much like the basketball viewing public is doing during these NBA Finals.

He leaned on his dad, much like the Nets are doing.

He looked as though he wanted to get out of there, and his old man might want the same thing.

"Well, I gave it everything I had. I tried to compete at the highest level, and I'll sleep good tonight because I left everything out there," Kidd said. "Unfortunately, we were just on the short end of the stick."

Kidd is about to finish his second season with the Nets, who acquired him from the Phoenix Suns in a trade for Stephon Marbury.

All season, Kidd has tried to deflect questions about his future by saying he'll wait until the summer to decide. But there have been clues along the way, such as at All-Star weekend when he publicly expressed his intrigue concerning the possibility of joining the Spurs -- one of the few teams who will have enough salary cap space to offer him a maximum-salary contract.

The season could end for the Nets tonight, thrusting them into a month of uncertainty as they await Kidd's decision. He cannot sign anywhere until July 16.

The Nets are certain to make Kidd the best offer they can. He is finishing his ninth season in the league and will be eligible for a six-year contract with a starting salary equal to 30 percent of the salary cap.

New Jersey can offer Kidd annual raises of 12.5 percent, while the Spurs can only offer him 10 percent raises. But Texas does not have a state income tax, so the overall money would be about the same.

Kidd has said he'll choose the place that gives him the best chance to win a title.

The Nets have treated Kidd like a king, helping his wife, Joumana, become a local celebrity, and giving T.J. his own locker. On Friday night, the contents of T.J.'s locker included two pint-sized Nets jerseys and a tic-tac-toe board.

The task ahead for the Nets is a daunting one. Since the NBA switched to a 2-3-2 finals format in 1985, no team has ever won Games 6 and 7 on the road.

In playoff history, the team that won Game 5 after a series was tied 2-2 has gone on to win 83 percent of the time. In the finals, that success rate is 73 percent (16 of 22).

"It's not impossible, the situation we're in," Nets coach Byron Scott said. "Now when you talk about must-wins, this is a must-win."

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