Not a Kidd, Jason Wants to Hoop 'Til 40
DALLAS -- The NBA never had seen anything like what John Stockton did nearly a decade ago.
On March 26, 2002, the Utah star turned 40. There had been big men, namely Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Parish, play effectively at that age, and Michael Jordan, then 39 and having moved to forward, averaged 20.0 points the next season at 40. But never had a point guard played so well past his 40th birthday.
Soon, it might happen again.
Dallas point guard Jason Kidd, who turns 38 on March 23, is starting to conjure up memories of Stockton. All Kidd did last season was make the All-Star Game just shy of his 37th birthday and average 9.1 assists. Even Stockton, who averaged 8.2 in the season he turned 40, never put up an average of nine or more assists in any season in which he was 36 or older.
Come back March 23, 2013, and Kidd might be the next point guard playing at a high level at 40.
"I would love to follow in those footsteps,'' Kidd said in an interview with FanHouse about being as effective at that age as Stockton, who averaged 13.8 points in the season he hit 40 and 10.8 and 7.8 assists in his final season of 2002-03 after turning 41. "He's the best. If I could come close to doing what he did at his age, I would be very happy.''
Dallas owner Mark Cuban raised some eyebrows when he signed Kidd in the summer of 2009 to a three-year, $25 million contract, taking him through the 2011-12 season and past his 39th birthday. All Kidd did in the first year of his deal was shoot a career-best 42.5 percent from three-point range while averaging 10.3 points.
"I don't see why not,'' Cuban said of Kidd playing into his 40s. "It's not like he's a high-flyer and he's losing his (leaping ability). He's got a very special skill and he knows how to use it. He gets smarter and his hands are just as quick. His shooting has improved dramatically. ... So he continues to add weapons. ... He's just a genetic freak.''
Kidd still has a good bit of his quickness. But because he never had much in the way of hops, there's nothing to lose there.
"It's all on the ground,'' Kidd said of his game. "So I just try to anticipate and use my wisdom against the younger guys. If I can do that until I'm 40, 41, that'd be a great accomplishment. ... As long as Cuban has a job for me, I would love to (play past 40). Mentally and physically, if I can keep going, if I can be where I am today, I think I can do it.''
Just as Stockton had a high-scoring power forward to throw the ball to in Karl Malone, Kidd has one in Dirk Nowitzki. Like Stockton, Kidd, whose career scoring average of 13.6 is nearly identical to Stockton's 13.1, hasn't been needed to score a lot in his later years.
But for most of his career, Kidd, who was a 33.4 percent career three-point shooter when he was traded by New Jersey to Dallas in 2008, couldn't shoot like Stockton, a career 38.4 percent marksman. But Kidd is extending his career by shooting 42.1 percent from three-point range since the trade. He gets more open looks due to the presence of offensive weapons Nowitzki and guard Jason Terry.
"With the guys I have, Dirk and (Terry), it makes the game so much easier,'' said Kidd, who had career highs of 176 three-pointers made and 414 attempted last season. "The big thing I worked on is to be able to shoot the ball. If I can knock down the open three, it helps my teammates get easier shots and then makes the game easier for everybody.''
Put it all together and Kidd, despite being a perennial All-Star, is surprising a lot of folks. Many wondered how much longer Kidd might last after having undergone microfracture surgery in the summer of 2004. Then again, Stockton hardly missed a beat after having undergone such a surgery in 1997, and Kidd has done likewise.
"A few years ago, everyone thought he was a guy that was, when he had his microfracture surgery in New Jersey, he was maybe done. Six months later, he's playing at an All-Star level again,'' Washington coach Flip Saunders said of Kidd. "He's so smart. ... He started out, he was like John Wall (a Wizards rookie point guard) speed wise. So he's slowed down a little bit. But him slowing down, he's still as fast as most of the other guys he's playing against.''
Wall ran into Kidd for the first time in the rookie's preseason debut Tuesday at American Airlines Arena. Wall grew up idolizing Kidd, and he found out the old guy still has a lot left.
"Some kind of plays he was going slow and then he turned on the jets pretty quickly,'' Wall said. "Basically, he's a great player that still knows how to play the game.''
Kidd sure does. Last season, he passed Mark Jackson for second place on the all-time assists list. With 10,923, he's still way behind Stockton's 15,806.
Insurmountable? Well, at his pace of handing out 724 assists last season, Kidd could pass Stockton late in the 2016-17 season, when he would be around the age of 44. Not everybody considers that an impossibility.
"He takes good care of his body and he's a consummate professional,'' said Mavericks center Brendan Haywood. "He can play forever.''
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson