Owner Mark Cuban said his Dallas Mavericks grew stagnant. Reigning MVP Dirk Nowitzki agreed.
Things changed Tuesday with the long-awaited arrival of All-Star point guard Jason Kidd in an eight-player trade with New Jersey that was discussed for weeks, scuttled once, reconfigured and finally approved by the NBA.
Now, the Mavericks get to see what became of the Kidd they took with the No. 2 pick 14 years ago, when they dreamed of winning a game here and there instead of a championship. Nowitzki gets the closest thing he's had to a running buddy since good friend Steve Nash left for Phoenix in 2004.
The Nets get a point guard 10 years younger than Kidd in Devin Harris, a functional center in DeSagana Diop and two first-round draft picks.
New Jersey also picked up swingman Maurice Ager, forward Trenton Hassell, retired forward Keith Van Horn and an extra $3 million. Dallas' other pieces were forward Malik Allen and guard Antoine Wright.
"In any business there's lulls," said Cuban, who was a Mavericks season ticker holder the last time Kidd was in Dallas. "Everybody was waiting for the postseason to start. You can't just say, 'OK, turn it on in the postseason.' I think Jason ... being that iconic All-Star will spark a lot of people."
That spark was gone in New Jersey, Nets president Rod Thorn said. He said as the Nets struggled this season, Kidd lost some of the intensity that defines him as a player, making the trade imperative.
Thorn said he first noticed it in December, an indirect reference to an incident in which Kidd sat out a game with a migraine, a move some considered a one-day walkout to force a trade.
"Over the course of time it became very evident that his heart wasn't in it," Thorn said. "The kind of player he is, if his heart's not in it then he's not the same player, and it became evident to me that his heart wasn't in it anymore. It just wasn't going to work."
The Mavericks were starting to wonder if their mix would work, particularly after a woeful two-game East Coast swing that included a blowout loss to Kidd and the Nets.
Cuban and Co. said recent events had nothing to do with the final decision, but their message was clear. They think Kidd gives them the best chance to win a championship now, a preoccupation in Dallas after playoff collapses the past two seasons when titles were within reach.
"There's no bigger reward than to have that championship trophy in your hand," said Kidd, who lost in the NBA finals twice with the Nets. "That's why I'm here. Because Dallas has its eye on that prize."
Kidd wasn't the answer for a troubled Dallas franchise a decade ago, and he was shipped to Phoenix after 21/2 seasons. Five years later he was traded to the Nets, who went to back-to-back NBA finals in 2002-03.
New Jersey hasn't made a long playoff run since, and Kidd started talking trade a year ago, when he almost went to the Los Angeles Lakers. He went public with his latest trade demand last month.
"He's a once-in-a-lifetime type of guy to play with and coach," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "He's had an unbelievable impact on everyone in this organization and we wish him nothing but the best."
Cuban is essentially gambling that the 11/2 seasons he'll have Kidd, who turns 35 next month, is worth more than the 41/2 seasons left with Harris running the offense.
Kidd, of course, is a proven commodity who is one triple-double shy of becoming just the third NBA player with 100. This year, he's averaging 11.3 points, 10.3 assists and 8.1 rebounds, while Harris is at 14.4 points and 5.3 assists.
Harris hasn't played since injuring his left ankle against Denver on Jan. 27. The Mavericks gave him a five-year contract worth roughly $42 million before this season but decided they couldn't wait any longer.
"I think it's going to be great to know when somebody's open he's going to get the ball," Nowitzki said. "With me playing with Nash for so many years, some of the passes you just took for granted. Over the last couple of years, those looks just weren't there."
The original deal died last week when the Mavericks' Devean George blocked his involvement and Jerry Stackhouse's presence in the deal was muddled by plans to get him back to Dallas &
within the rules, but frowned upon by the league nonetheless.
Van Horn and Hassell replaced George and Stackhouse, with Van Horn getting a big check from Cuban to come out of retirement simply to make the numbers work. He's unlikely to play for the Nets.
"It's been the most amazing, interesting trade we've ever done, and we've done some doozies here," Cuban said. "It's a little better basketball-wise. It's just a little bit more painful checkbook-wise."
This is the third big trade involving a Western Conference power as the teams prepare for the stretch run. Before the All-Star break, Shaquille O'Neal was dealt from Miami to Phoenix and Pau Gasol went from Memphis to the Lakers.
"We understand the competition is fierce, but we're not afraid of the competition," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said.
While the focus is on the new Kidd-Nowitzki pairing, there was plenty of talk Tuesday about how Josh Howard could flourish under Kidd. Howard has been settling for jump shots lately but might be more inclined to run the floor and try to get to the basket with Kidd in charge.
Kidd has already deferred to the Mavs' second-leading scorer. He's worn No. 5 throughout his career but didn't even ask Howard to change numbers. Kidd's trying to make the best of it, though. He says he picked No. 2 because it's an upside-down No. 5 &
"I'm just really excited to be back for a second opportunity," Kidd said. "I'm a little bit older, I've played a lot of basketball, seen a lot. Hopefully I can share that with my teammates."
Dallas also announced it waived forward Nick Fazekas, the 34th pick last year.
Mavericks seek spark with Kidd