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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Jason Kidd's 3D Vision

Jason Kidd does not have a blog like Gilbert Arenas or a cool nickname like Chris Paul's "CP3." Kidd is not the flavor of the month among NBA point guards and his name too often gets lost in the shuffle behind guys who have never been to the Finals or who only play effectively at one end of the court or who are good at putting up stats without actually making their teams any better. Kidd led the New Jersey Nets to back to back Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003 at a time when the team had a good but certainly not overpowering group of players. The Nets are just a .500 team so far this season but Kidd can hardly be blamed for their mediocrity; he is averaging 11.6 ppg, 10.7 apg (second in the NBA) and a career-high 8.8 rpg, which is better than many of the league's big men and is simply remarkable for a soon to be 35 year old 6-4 guard who previously had microfracture surgery.

The only weakness in Kidd's game is his low field goal percentage but he has turned himself into a decent three point shooter and his free throw percentage is usually around .800. On Friday, Kidd moved past Isiah Thomas into fifth place on the career assists list with 9065; he won't catch top ranked John Stockton, who has basically lapped the field with 15806 assists, but at his current pace he is a little less than two seasons away from passing Mark Jackson (10,334) and moving into second place.

Of course, the signature statistic for Kidd is the triple double. He is third on the career list in that department with 97. Kidd got his most recent triple double last Tuesday, contributing 13 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds in the Nets' 115-99 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats. The notable thing about that triple double is that it was Kidd's third triple double in a row. The only other players since 1989 to have at least three triple doubles in a row are Michael Jordan and Grant Hill. Jordan's streak--which lasted seven games--happened near the end of the 1988-89 season, when Chicago Coach Doug Collins shifted him to point guard; Jordan led the league in scoring and ranked tenth in assists that season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the record for consecutive triple doubles--nine--belongs to Wilt Chamberlain. One of the many remarkable things about Chamberlain is that just about any time you talk about doing something great in basketball history Chamberlain probably holds (or at least held at one time) the record; he is perhaps best known for his 100 point game but he also holds the single game record of 55 rebounds and he had the only 20-20-20 game in NBA history (22 points, 25 rebounds, 21 assists). It is unlikely that any of those marks will ever be surpassed.

Some people deride the triple double as an arbitrary, meaningless statistic, saying that a 30-10-9 game is more valuable than, say, a 10-10-10 game. There is some literal truth to that but I am not aware of any player who put up a string of 30-10-9 games without also having a bunch of triple doubles along the way, so the idea that by singling out triple doubles we are somehow ignoring other players who are more worthy of recognition just does not ring true. Also, check out the career top five list for triple doubles:

1) Oscar Robertson, 181
2) Magic Johnson, 138
3) Jason Kidd, 97
4) Wilt Chamberlain, 78
5) Larry Bird, 59

Many people still consider Robertson to be the greatest all-around player ever--and some of those who don't would choose Johnson. Bird is often mentioned as the greatest forward ever and Chamberlain is the most statistically dominant player in the history of the sport. Those four players would be on just about everyone's list of the top ten players of all-time. The quality of the company that Kidd is keeping here speaks volumes about the relevance of the triple double. It is also worth noting that Kidd is the shortest and lightest of these five players and that he is the only one who never played alongside a Hall of Fame caliber player, which makes it all the more amazing that he could singlehandedly put such a statistical imprint on so many games.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:17 AM

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At Monday, January 14, 2008 5:38:00 AM, Blogger Todd Spehr said...

I totally agree about Kidd. The guy is overlooked, Mark Jackson and JVG both didn't include him in their "Top-5" PG lists during a December PHO-UTH game. How?

Plus, he has put together a statistical resume that is all-around. He has more boards than Stockton, more assists that Isiah, more steals than Magic, more points than Nash. He's one of the best to ever play... no doubt.

And he can hold his head high in an otherwise dismal Nets' season.

 

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