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Archive for Saturday, July 12, 2003

Nets keep Kidd, beef up with Mourning

July 12, 2003

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— Jason Kidd picked the New Jersey Nets over the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in hopes of winning his first NBA title.

Kidd ended 11 days of free-agency angst for the resurrected Nets when he spurned an offer Friday from the Spurs and agreed to a six-year, $99 million deal with New Jersey.

"After great thought and consultation with the important people in my life, I have decided that I want to remain a New Jersey Net," said Kidd, the perennial All-Star point guard who was the biggest catch of the free-agent market this offseason.

His decision came the same day word emerged center Alonzo Mourning would join the Nets as a free agent. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said in an e-mail Mourning wouldn't sign with Dallas and had chosen New Jersey.

Nets president Rod Thorn said the league's rules on free agency prevented him from commenting on either Kidd or Mourning until next week.

A call to Mourning's agent, Jeffrey Wechsler, was not immediately returned.

Mourning -- out of the NBA last season because of a kidney ailment -- can't officially sign with the Nets until Wednesday, nor can Kidd.

"I have enjoyed being here the past two years, I have worked hard with my teammates and believe in our future," Kidd said in a statement released by his agent, Jeff Schwartz. "I've been fortunate to have had significant interest from other great organizations, but ultimately I want to finish what we started here and bring a championship to the Nets."

Since arriving via trade two years ago, Kidd transformed the Nets from an also-ran into the two-time Eastern Conference champion.

However, there was no guarantee Kidd would return to New Jersey once he became a free agent July 1.

While cleaning out his locker days after the Spurs beat the Nets in six games in the NBA Finals, the 30-year-old Kidd made it clear he didn't want to be a bridesmaid again.

"My decision is going to be based strictly on winning a championship," Kidd said days after his title hopes came up one step short again.

In 2001-02, the Nets were swept in the finals by the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Spurs and Nets were the only teams with a legitimate chance to sign Kidd. Both teams had the money, and both are legitimate title contenders.

The Spurs could offer about $92 million over six years, which was $6 million-to-$7 million less than the Nets.

However, the difference wasn't as much because Texas does not have an income tax. San Antonio also had the attraction of playing with two-time MVP Tim Duncan.

The drawback was playing in the loaded Western Conference. The Lakers have become the preseason favorite by adding Gary Payton and Karl Malone to a roster that includes Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.

The conference also has two other very talented teams in Dallas and Sacramento, so getting to the finals would be a difficult road.

The Nets don't have those obstacles in the Eastern Conference, where they ran off a 10-game winning streak in the playoffs to reach the finals.

Adding Mourning, an All-Star with Miami two years ago, to a lineup that includes Kenyon Martin, Richard Jefferson and group of solid players might have convinced Kidd to stay.

Pat Riley, president and head coach of the Miami Heat, released a statement Friday that said Mourning would not be returning after failing to reach an agreement on a new deal.

"Zo has received an opportunity that is impossible for us to match," Riley said. "We each really wanted to make this work, but both sides realized that it was probably time to make a change."

Kidd and his family visited San Antonio this week, and his agent said Kidd would make a decision by the start of next week.

But he made his choice known sooner -- and just 24 hours after there were reports he wanted the Nets to get rid of coach Byron Scott. Thorn denied published reports Kidd demanded Scott be fired.

Spurs general manager R.C. Buford, a former Kansas University assistant under Larry Brown, confirmed Kidd pulled out of talks with his team.

"While it is disappointing news for us, we are happy for Jason and his family and wish them continued success," Buford said.

Kidd averaged team highs of 18.7 points and 8.9 assists, plus 6.3 rebounds, and made his sixth All-Star game appearance this season. He also averaged 20.1 points, 8.2 assists and 7.7 rebounds in the postseason.

New Jersey had won just one playoff series in its NBA history until Kidd arrived in a trade that sent Stephon Marbury to the Phoenix Suns.

The Nets were 26-56 the season before Kidd came, and they have gone 101-63 with him running the team.

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