Jason Kidd Q&A on Olympics
The summer hasn’t been half bad. A trip to Disney World with the kids. Plenty of golf, including a turn in that celebrity tourney at Lake Tahoe. (He couldn’t help but admire the links prowess of the other Dallas quarterback, Tony Romo, and finished 56th out of 85.) He’s done his share of traveling, while making time to relax along the way.
But the offseason for Jason Kidd never steers completely clear of basketball. This one just happens to be bigger than most. The All-Star left Sunday for Las Vegas to resume preparation with Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and the rest of USA Basketball men’s national team for the upcoming Olympics in Beijing.
Kidd is the starting point guard for Team USA, a once proud international dynasty that hasn’t won a gold medal since 2000. The Americans haven’t finished first in the last three major competitions – the 2002 and ’06 World Championships, and the ’04 Olympics.
Kidd represents a link to the team’s glorious past. He’s 44-0 with USA across his chest, and helped captain the last gold medalist in Sydney eight years ago. Kidd, 35, isn’t interested in smudging his legacy now.
“I’m taking this very seriously,” he said recently. “We all are.”
Mavs.com visited with Kidd recently after his final workout in Dallas. Kidd went through shooting drills and ran sprints under the supervision of Mavericks trainer Casey Smith, who’s reprising his role as one of the trainers with Team USA.
Seated in front of the big screen TV inside the locker room where Kidd was rooting on Dirk Nowitzki’s lifelong Olympic dream, the talk centered on Kidd’s role within USA Basketball and the Mavs. (Germany did qualify.) Not surprisingly, Kidd is talking gold medal and NBA title. For both teams, that’s why they got him.
Mavs.com: What was the first mini-camp with Team USA like earlier this summer?
Jason Kidd: Mini-camp was good. Coach K wanted to see where everybody’s conditioning was and get guys together for a little bit before we’re actually together for 35 days. It was good to see everybody, and just to talk about our goal: To win the gold medal.
MC: This a team with a lot of guys used to being leaders on their teams. You’ve been cast in the role of leading the leaders. Are you ready for it?
JK: Just being the oldest … older I should say and just the experience of playing international ball, I think you can put me in that position. The one thing I can share with the guys about the gold medal is it’s not easy. The world has gotten better and you can see that with the performances we’ve had the past couple of years.
MC: You weren’t a part of the last Olympics. Did the team need guys that know what it’s like to bring home gold?
JK: Maybe, just to understand what it takes to win. There are guys on this team that have been beaten, so they understand what it feels like to lose. They want to erase that, and we can use that as a positive. Everybody has to be hungry. It’s not going to be easy because everybody is looking for us. Everybody wants to beat us still.
MC: There’s been some criticism of certain guys who could be on the team had they wanted, but aren’t. Do you like the fact that the guys on the team want to be there?
JK: It’s great to see the young guys involved like Chris Paul and Deron Williams. These guys can play. To see the younger generation excited about representing their country brings back that excitement of wearing the Red, White and Blue. For a time, guys didn’t want to do it. Everybody passed.
MC: You referred to yourself as an old guy. Is it a struggle as the years go by to gear up physically for these kinds of things?
JK: I feel great. Unfortunately our season ended a little sooner than we wanted to. Maybe if we went to the Finals it would have been a little bit tougher, but I feel great and I’m ready to roll. Last year, I used the summer games to keep me in shape and ready for the season. I’m looking at this the same way.
MC: What are your thoughts on what’s gone in with your fulltime team since the season ended?
JK: I know we were in a tough situation in the Draft without any [first-round] picks, but Cuban is always looking for ways to make the team better. The same goes for Coach Carlisle. They’re trying to find ways to make the team better to win a championship. I leave that stuff to those guys and Donnie. We’re in good hands. Once they put out the product, we’re going to have a good chance to win.
MC: As for Gerald Green, the thinking is that pairing up a jumping jack like that with you might bring out some of the skills he hasn’t showcased enough. Gerald even said that one of the reasons he signed here was to play with you.
JK: With Gerald’s athletic ability, it definitely gives us something that we didn’t have. He’s got to prove himself. He was in the league, got traded and then found himself on the outs. I like that type of player who has something to prove. I want him to be the best that he can because he can help us.
MC: What have your discussions with Carlisle been like?
JK: He talked about Mark Jackson and Anthony Johnson, and how they ran the team [in Indiana] and he has no problem with guys that he trusts that can run the team. He said he will call plays at some point, but first will look to get easy baskets. He wants to have a sense of ‘just playing.’ Being structured, but playing, because when you get to the Finals, it’s not so much about the plays, but being able to play. I’m excited to play for Rick.
MC: Is it fair to say you’re looking for more freedom?
JK: For me it’s just about starting from the beginning and being more comfortable. I have to look for my shot a little bit more, but I also have a lot of weapons out there. The way we can make the team better is with me scoring and being more aggressive. That’s what Rick has also talked about. Everybody was playing catch-up the second half of the season. We all needed to start over.
MC: It wasn’t just you.
JK: From Dirk to JT to Josh, everybody needs a clean slate. It’s a good thing. We needed a fresh start. Also, there probably was some stuff lingering from the Finals. Those guys felt that was their championship to win. They needed to get that flushed out of their systems and start anew.
MC: Even though you’re in the back end of your career, does it feel like this is a new beginning for you personally?
JK: I’d love to finish here in Dallas. This is where it started and I would love to win a championship here. I feel like this is the best chance I have. This is a free-agent year for me, but I’m looking to show that I can still play at a high level.
MC: The perception is that teams in the West have jumped ahead of the Mavs. Without making a major roster change, handicap your chances to contend.
JK: I really believe we’re one of the top four. If you look at teams that have gotten better by adding pieces, you don’t know how those pieces will fit. I don’t mind positioning us as one of the lower playoffs teams, because at the end of the day the West is a tight race. Just look at the Southwest Division. Just about every team is a playoff team. We’ve got our work cut out for us.
MC: Do you go into next season more comfortable being a vocal leader inside the locker room?
JK: I can speak up a little bit more. It was hard, this was Avery’s team, and I wasn’t going to come in here and immediately start talking. It’s a better fit all the way around.