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Wise Old Kidd

So what if he's a step slower and needs a game-day nap? The Mavericks' cagey point guard is aging just fine

Remember Jason Kidd, the 2000 version? He was 26, finished at the rim, cruised through back-to-backs with little more than a can of Red Bull in his system and ran a team with the precision of a diamond cutter. Now meet Kidd, the 2010 version. He's 36, needs a boost to grab iron, requires pregame naps so long that, he says, "most people would call them sleep," and ... still runs an offense with the precision of a diamond cutter. With Kidd averaging 9.2 assists and a career-low 2.2 turnovers, the Mavericks were second in the league in points per 100 possessions at week's end (112.5, up from 110.4 last year) and had the third-best record (29--15) in the Western Conference.

As he continues his evolution from greyhound to graybeard, Kidd identifies with another ageless point guard: John Stockton. "The beauty of Stockton was how he changed his game as he got older," says Kidd. Like the Hall of Famer, Kidd has grown more cerebral, studying more film to pick up opponents' tendencies. (That ability to anticipate explains how the league's oldest starting guard was averaging 1.67 steals.) And with his once explosive first step now more of a shuffle, Kidd has developed into a deadeye three-point shooter. A 33.6% shooter from behind the arc in his first 14 seasons in the league, Kidd (40.2%) is on pace for his second straight season above 40%.

Though Kidd can occasionally still be a one-man fast break, "he's not an all-out push guy anymore," says Sixers coach Eddie Jordan. "He has become a master at making the right passes in the half-court." Mavs coach Rick Carlisle agrees. Last season he called almost all of the sets from the bench. This year he has ceded some of that responsibility to Kidd. "And," says Kidd, "there is more discussion between us in the huddles." An example: With the Mavs trailing the Celtics last week in the first quarter, during a timeout Kidd persuaded Carlisle to run a few possessions through Kidd in the post. On Dallas's next two trips, Kidd muscled in a layup and dished to forward Drew Gooden for a short hook.

Ironically, an injury may have contributed to Kidd's ability to withstand the rigors of the game. After undergoing microfracture surgery on his left knee in 2004, Kidd began devoting more time to strengthening his legs with a regimen that includes ball squats, leg presses and lunges. "He is religious with his preparation," says Kidd's former Nets coach Lawrence Frank. "He knows he can't cheat the game. He never goes into a gym and jerks around."

Kidd will be 39 when his three-year, $25 million deal expires and is unsure if he wants to play beyond that. Ask around the league, though, and you'll have a hard time finding a coach or player who doesn't think he can.

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Wall or Nothin'

Is it John Wall or bust for the Nets? Should they fail to land the No. 1 pick (and the chance to draft the Kentucky superfreshman), league sources expect New Jersey to explore trading its choice—which, barring a miraculous turnaround, can be no worse than fourth. One option could be Ricky Rubio(below). The Timberwolves hold the rights to the Spanish point guard, who signed a six-year deal with Regal Barcelona last summer that does not have a buyout clause until 2011. However if the Nets—who are high on Rubio's wish list—were to acquire his rights, he would try to negotiate a buyout after this season.... The Mavericks are shopping forward Josh Howard, who is averaging six-year lows in points (12.4) and minutes (27.9). An NBA source says Dallas's top target is Kings guard Kevin Martin.



CLASSIC DISH In his 16th season, Kidd is fifth in the league with 9.2 assists per game.