Be careful what you wish for. I said that to Doc Rivers last fall, just after the Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to give him the most potent arsenal (by a long shot) of any coach in the league.
I also said it to Avery Johnson last week during the early days of the madness that finally culminated today with the trading of Jason Kidd, the future Hall of Fame playmaker, to Johnson’s Dallas Mavericks.
The Mavs pretty much gave up the whole of South Dallas for Kidd. But the only cog in the deal that matters (especially the way it finally went down) is Devin Harris, the young point guard. Harris is a star on the rise. His stats improved during each of his four pro seasons. He just wasn’t rising fast enough for the Mavs, particularly when measured against peers Chris Paul and Deron Williams, who are each a year younger than Harris.
Anyone could see that, but Johnson particularly so. The coach loosened the reins during the early weeks of the season, only to have to take hold of the Mavs’ erratic offense once again when it became clear that Harris’ leadership (a nebulous term, but one that means everything in sports) just wasn’t what it needed to be.
Not now. Not when neither of the team’s two best players – Dirk Nowitski or Josh Howard – was up to the task as well. And not as the Mavs’ Western Conference combatants were loading up on weapons like hunters at a gun show.
No matter how much he tried, Avery Johnson simply did not have an Avery Johnson on the floor.
Now he does. Now he has someone he can trust, someone whose mere presence eases the way for Dirk and Josh.
And now, as Avery well knows, it’s on.
With Kidd being 35 years old, he knows he now has a two- (maybe three-year) window to win it all.
At minimum, the Mavs must likely reach at least the conference finals this season in order to a) purge the weight of last season’s first-round flame out against Golden State; and b) justify the reported extra $11 million this deal is costing Mark Cuban over the way the deal was originally constructed. Next year, the bar will be even higher.
Most of you know that I spent much of last year working on a motivational book with Johnson (no relation). “Aspire Higher: Winning On and Off the Court with Determination, Discipline and Decisions” (Harper Collins) hits bookstores in March (But you can buy it HERE now! Yes, shameless plug). One portion of the book talks about surviving the “storms” life brings forth, the kind of storms Johnson – like the rest of us – endured throughout his life, from the housing projects of New Orleans to 18 years in the NBA to the near-pinnacle of coaching.
One view might be that the storm that has engulfed the Mavs since last season’s post season might finally be lifting with Kidd in the house.
Then again, it may be just beginning.