If there were ever a blueprint for Baron Davis to follow, it’s the one created by his opponent tonight in Jason Kidd. Kidd is 37 years old in a league dominated by quick guards, most of which are a decade younger than him. Athletically, he doesn’t have much left in the tank. Kidd’s lateral movement is poor, his leaping ability is all but gone, and his general spryness has all but left him. Still, even with all that said, Kidd remains amazingly effective.
In the twilight of his career with father time working against him, Kidd fought back and worked on his jumper tirelessly and in the process transformed his game completely. Kidd was never a good three point shooter in his prime — most seasons he hovered around the 32-33 percent mark from three. This season, Kidd is shooting nearly 42 percent from three, and shooting the second highest amount of attempts on his career. Would Kidd have fallen off the NBA radar had he not adapted and developed this new weapon? Maybe not entirely, but he surely wouldn’t be playing at the level he is now.
And this takes us back to Baron. In many ways, Baron isn’t so unlike Jason Kidd. Both are bigger, bulkier guards who can punish smaller players in the post. Both have one of a kind court vision and thrive in transition. The main difference between Kidd and Baron on the offensive end comes down to shooting. Kidd willed himself to become a very good spot up shooter, while Baron has actually regressed as a shooter in his last two seasons in Los Angeles. It’s the story of Baron’s career. The holes in his game could be easily fixed, but they remain holes year after year.
Kidd shows off what evolving can do for you by shooting the lights out tonight. Let’s take a look at some of his attempts, along with timestamps for marks in the video at which the plays occur.
[0:08] Eric Gordon gives a good pump fake, but the length on the bounce entry pass is far too great against a mobile post defender like Najera. Jordan can’t seal off Najera completely, and the scappy forward comes up with the ball for the Mavs. Transition D is an issue for the Clippers, but this one falls mostly on Gordon. It’s good enough to start, as Gordon forces Terry to the middle of the floor where his help lies. Once Terry kicks the ball back to a trailing Kidd, however, Gordon doesn’t sell out on the close out and force Kidd to attack at the rim. Instead, Gordon literally walks out to the perimeter to greet Kidd with a token hand in the air. The three is good.
[0:15] Again, it’s Terry and Gordon in the two man game in transition. Four Clippers hustle back to guard Shawn Marion under the basket and leave Gordon to fend for himself against Kidd and Terry. After Gordon closes out on Terry, a quick flip back to Kidd leaves him all alone. Steve Blake rushes to close out, but he’s way out of position from picking up Marion along the baseline. Another made three from Kidd.
[0:24] This one is a simple pick and roll on the left wing with Kidd and Haywood. Gordon does a decent job swimming over the top of the Haywood pick, so Kidd rises as if shooting and fires a pass to Haywood in the post. With Gordon off his feet, Kidd quickly cuts back the opposite way Gordon is flying, and gets the step on the younger guard. Haywood hands the ball right back to Kidd, and it’s an open path to the rim. Kaman correctly sags off Haywood to help Gordon, but inexplicably decides against going up and contesting Kidd’s lefty layup. Without a protector at the rim, the Clippers are helpless defensively most nights. This sort of play happens all too often. Two more points for Kidd.
[0:58] A staple in the Mavs offense is putting Dirk on the elbow and clearing out for him. Unfortunately for the Clippers, a staple in Baron Davis’ game is helping off his man completely, sometimes for no reason at all. Here Baron leaves Kidd to gamble for a steal and comes up empty. A quick skip pass to Kidd on the perimeter from Nowitzki results in Gordon being left to choose between Terry and Kidd. Gordon jabs at Kidd and runs to Terry. Kidd gives Gordon a simple ball fake, sets his feet, and drills yet another three.
Despite surrendering 62 points and being down 14 at halftime, the Clippers battle back into the game in the third quarter. After Dirk Nowitzki gets tossed in the third quarter for arguing balls and strikes (basically, anyway) the Clippers go on a huge 15-4 run behind the inside play of Drew Gooden (26 points, 20 rebounds) and Chris Kaman (22 points, 9 rebounds). After taking the lead going into the fourth with the Mavs sans Dirk, some old demons popped up for the Clippers. It seems the Clippers struggle colossally against teams missing their star player, and it seems the Clippers also struggle to start fourth quarters. Well, both reared their ugly heads when the Mavs went ultra-small to start the fourth period. Dallas went on an incredible 22-3 run largely behind their transition game and the versatility of their old dog Jason Kidd (26 points, 12 assists, 6 rebounds).
Watching Kidd torch the Clippers is a reminder of how basic basketball smarts can compensate for so much. Kidd is slow on the ball defensively, but he carries his weight on that end by crashing the boards, getting his body on people, and being physical where he can get away with it. When the Mavs go small in the fourth quarter, Kidd completely clears out Chris Kaman and collects the defensive rebound, one of his three during the run. Offensively Kidd can’t go by people anymore, so he uses his post game and his little tricks to free himself up. Surely some credit goes to his teammates and the system he’s in, but a lot of Kidd’s success is directly tied to his willingness to adapt to his surroundings.
Maybe Baron hasn’t been dealt the best hand in his time in Los Angeles, but he can learn a lesson from his elder on this one: Adapt, or fall by the wayside.