Jason Kidd finished shooting free throws on Thursday, bent his 32-year-old knees into an imperfect L and lowered himself into a courtside seat at the Nets' practice facility. Veteran legs grow weary when the long road beckons, even in a season that is eight games young.
If Thanksgiving is upon us, it is time for the Nets to make their annual -- and many times painful -- pilgrimage to the West. After a home game on Saturday against Washington, the first of five stops happens to be Oakland, Kidd's hometown, against Golden State on Monday.
"The West is home, yes," he said. "But, you know, we've made a new home here. Kids in school, they have friends. We've settled in. We hope to continue."
Attitudinally, from a year ago, this is the equivalent of Kidd's slickest crossover dribble. He began last season recovering from knee surgery, watching the remains of what had been a two-time NBA finalist stagger through November, stripped of key assets.
The new owner, Bruce C. Ratner, was looking east while the team plunged south and Kidd fantasized an escape west.
He never publicly said as much, but Kidd's misery was unmistakable, and his message came through loud and clear from the mouth of his friend Alonzo Mourning. Mourning eventually complained his way out of New Jersey but gave Kidd a method of coping as a parting gift.
The arrival of Vince Carter no doubt was the crucial element in the Nets' late playoff run last spring, and in Kidd's new faith in Ratner as the owner of an NBA team who intended to compete. But Kidd will tell you that he is more content with life in general, and in the uniform of this star-crossed franchise in particular, because he made the move -- spiritually, that is -- to Brooklyn years before Ratner's proposed arena becomes a reality.
"It'll be a year coming up that Alonzo and his wife, Tracy, invited Joumana and I to a Bible study class," he said. "It turned out that it was something we needed in our lives. More or less, I think it was just meant to be."
Joumana Kidd dragged her husband to a Bible study class conducted in Manhattan by the Reverend A.R. Bernard, and what emerged was a mentoring relationship and membership in Bernard's Christian Cultural Center on Flatlands Avenue in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn. "Jason was reluctant at first," Bernard said in a telephone interview. "But he began to enjoy, and over time he began a transformation of his values, his relationships and his work."
Engaging in some celebrity name-dropping, Bernard said that the Jets' Curtis Martin was a member of his community, as were Starr Jones and Angela Bassett. They and the Kidds are part of a congregation of more than 20,000 that promotes conservative Christian values.
Shrugging off the two-bridge commute from his home in Bergen County, New Jersey, Kidd said he attended almost as regularly as he did team shoot-arounds. "If we're not on the road, I'm there every Sunday," he said. "I even went to an 8 o'clock Mass last season on the day we had a playoff game."
After practice on Thursday, Kidd and the Nets took a bus to Brooklyn to serve an early Thanksgiving meal to needy families at the Christian Cultural Center. Step one in the community-relations phase of Ratner's grand plan was taken.
Religious or not, liberal or conservative, whether you believe the Nets' relocation plan is a cover for Ratner to build apartment buildings or a comprehensive development plan for downtown Brooklyn whose time has come, it would be a dramatic and cool transformation if Kidd really does define success now as something greater than the pursuit of a championship ring.
In the process of whining his way to Miami last season, Mourning squandered much of the sympathy and admiration he had generated after his kidney transplant and his decision to soldier on in the NBA He came across as the hopelessly self-absorbed jock, ungrateful for the lucrative career lifeline the Nets had thrown him, at the behest of Kidd.
With the Nets a 4-4 team, in all likelihood still a frontcourt player shy of the Eastern Conference elite, it was nonetheless heartening to hear Kidd admit on Thursday that, as much as he has done for the Nets, "New Jersey has been good for me."
He's had his best basketball years in the unglamorous Continental Arena, hard by the turnpike, and he insists the only horizon he considers is the one to the East, beyond Manhattan.
"Going to Brooklyn has done wonders for me," he said. "I think going to Brooklyn will do wonders for this franchise."
Kidd is in the third year of a six-year contract, and with the arena projected to be finished in three or four years, it is possible that his knees will wear out first, and the fast breaks he leads will slow to a crawl. He may never make it to Brooklyn with the ball in his hands.
Maybe, he said, he'll shoot for a management position with the Brooklyn Nets instead.
On the telephone, awaiting the arrival of Kidd and the Nets, his reverend and new mentor called that an excellent idea. "Jason is a man who is thinking about his legacy, his future," Bernard said. "That starts with accepting and appreciating what he already has."
Josh Howard had 25 points and five blocked shots, and Dirk Nowitzki added 20 points and 13 rebounds, helping the Dallas Mavericks beat Atlanta 87-78 and extend the Hawks' season-opening losing streak to eight games on Thursday.
Keith Van Horn added 14 points for the Mavericks, who improved to 3-0 at home and 6-2 overall.
Zaza Pachulia led the Hawks with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Atlanta and the Toronto Raptors are the NBA's only winless teams -- both at 0-8.
Joe Johnson scored 18 points, and Al Harrington added 15 points and 10 rebounds for Atlanta.
Timberwolves 109, Wizards 98
At Minneapolis, Kevin Garnett had 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists, and Richie Frahm hit key shots in the fourth quarter, helping Minnesota beat Washington and snap a two-game losing streak.
"[Garnett] dominates in the first three quarters and in the fourth quarter, everybody pays attention to him and he finds everybody else," Gilbert Arenas said. "That's why he's No. 1 in the world."
Wally Szczerbiak scored 17 points, and Frahm and Troy Hudson added 16. Six Timberwolves players scored in double figures.
Arenas had 33 points and Caron Butler added 15 for Washington, which has lost two straight. The Wizards had five players in double figures.
Spurs 86, Rockets 80
At San Antonio, Tim Duncan had 19 points and nine rebounds, and the Spurs held off a late surge by Houston.
Tony Parker scored 17 points for the Spurs, and Robert Horry added 16 -- including a key 3-pointer late in the game. Manu Ginobili had 15 points and four steals. San Antonio dominated inside, scoring 52 points in the paint.
Tracy McGrady led Houston with a game-high 27 points and 12 rebounds, but was held to 0-7 shooting in the first half. Yao Ming had 19 points, but just one in the second half.
After Juwan Howard's layup cut Houston's deficit to 64-52 with 2:58 left in the third quarter, San Antonio scored the next eight points to stretch their lead to 20 points.
Former NBA center Vlade Divac says he was surprised to learn that his home country was accusing him of avoiding its military draft.
Serbia-Montenegro's army says it has filed charges against him. Divac, 37, was obliged by law to join the compulsory six-month military service by the age of 35, the country's state prosecutors' office said Wednesday.
It asked Serbia-Montenegro's foreign ministry "to determine Divac's citizenship and his home address" to be able to carry out the legal proceedings and hand him the draft notice.
"I have learned about this a couple of days ago and it came as a complete surprise," Divac said in a statement issued through his agent, Marc Fleisher.
"I have filed all of the necessary documents required for postponing army duties on a regular basis with the Serbian embassy in the United States and the Department of Defense of Serbia and Montenegro. In my opinion, this is a non-issue and it will be resolved in the next couple of days."
Divac, who lives in Los Angeles, could face a one-year prison sentence in his native country if he does not join the army soon, legal experts in Serbia-Montenegro said.
But Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica jumped to Divac's defense on Thursday, issuing a statement in Belgrade saying he had talked to Divac during the day and expressed hope that the "redundant and belated issue of Divac's military service would be resolved shortly."
Kostunica also said Divac had ``proven his patriotism innumerable times during his long career'' in basketball.
Serbian media reported later that Divac arrived in Belgrade on Thursday and would meet with defense minister Zoran Stankovic the following day.
Divac ended his 16-year NBA career last month, taking a job with the Los Angeles Lakers as a liaison and scout in Europe.
Divac was one of the first Europeans to have a major impact in the NBA. He was first drafted by the Lakers in 1989, and later played for the Charlotte Hornets and the Sacramento Kings.
He joined centers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players in NBA history to get 13,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists and 1,500 blocked shots.
Divac is hugely popular in Serbia for helping the former Yugoslavia to silver medals at the 1988 and 1996 Olympics, and leading the country now known as Serbia-Montenegro to a gold medal at the 2002 world championships.
There were widespread public calls for Divac to join a presidential race after former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was ousted in 2000.
"Throughout my professional basketball career, I have always voiced my patriotism for my native land," Divac said. "My fellow countrymen are well aware of my contributions and know how much I care for Serbia and Montenegro."
Tony Allen indicted
Boston Celtics guard Tony Allen was indicted Wednesday on three counts of aggravated battery stemming from a fight that escalated into a shooting outside a Chicago diner in August.
Cook County state's attorney spokesman Tom Stanton said the indictment, handed up by a grand jury, was read to Allen during a hearing Wednesday. Allen did not enter a plea.
Allen, who was charged last month with aggravated battery and released on a US$150,000 bond, is scheduled to return to court Dec. 6 for arraignment, Stanton said.
Aggravated battery carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Allen's attorney, Michael Zaslavsky, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Allen is accused of being involved in an early morning fight at a diner south of the downtown business district. According to police, he punched another man in the face, breaking the man's left eye socket.
Another man was shot in the left arm and left side, but police spokesman Pat Camden said Allen is not suspected in the shooting.
Allen was drafted 25th overall in the 2004 National Basketball Association draft out of Oklahoma State University. He started 34 games as a rookie, averaging 6.4 points and 2.9 rebounds.
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