The Knicks are in the midst of an up and down stretch, as they’ve played under .500 basketball (5-6) since their Dec. 17 loss to Jeremy Lin and the Rockets.
The one constant, however, has been the play of Jason Kidd. The 39-year-old point guard won’t go for big numbers like MVP candidate Carmelo Anthony, but Kidd has shot the ball well enough that if opposing defenses sag off of him just a little, he’s capable of making them pay.
The savvy veteran has been around the NBA long enough to know that even if he’s not lighting up the scoreboard, there are other ways to hurt opponents.
“The game isn’t always about scoring,” said Kidd, who is averaging 8.7 points per game. “It’s also about leading through other ways, whether it’s finding the open guy, or helping my guys rebound the ball, or getting some deflections, so we can get some easy baskets.”
Kidd has done a little of everything this season, whether it’s starting at shooting guard alongside Raymond Felton, or filling in for Felton while he heals from a fractured pinkie. He was never known as even a decent shooter, but Kidd has successfully remade his game late in his career enough that he’s now a respectable spot-up 3-point shooter (a career-high .440 percent this season). He’s also one of the Knicks’ best closers, as was evident in a game-winning shot in Brooklyn on Dec. 11 and the game-icing 3-pointer last Saturday night in Orlando.
The 6-foot-4 point guard has also been a serviceable rebounder (4.3 per game). He’s fourth on the team in that category, and has done an admirable job defending younger and faster point guards. He currently averages a team-high 1.8 steals per game as well.
Perhaps no one on the Knicks knows Kidd better than center Tyson Chandler, who won a ring as teammates in Dallas following the 2009-10 season.
“He does it every single time,” said Chandler, when asked about Kidd’s best quality. “I say it all the time that it must sound like a tape recorder, because he does it with a steal, 3-pointer or something. … He always seems to make the big play.”
J.R. Smith, who’s second on the team in scoring at 16.9 points per game, has been lauded for playing under more control this season, and besides the guidance of head coach Mike Woodson, the swingman also credits Kidd for his influence.
“J-Kidd is unbelievable. He makes sure we’re always calm, even when we’re in a hostile environment, or sitting on the bench all game, or blowing leads,” Smith said. “He communicates with everyone so well, and shows the confidence in everyone, that they go out and play so well and worry-free.”
»Woodson acknowledged that team doctors have urged him to cut back Amar’e Stoudemire’s minutes, as the former all-star power forward is still finding his way into the flow of things following a debridement procedure on his left knee back in October. Stoudemire, who has been logging 20.5 minutes per game, has done well on the offensive end in his four games back, averaging 10 points on .452 percent shooting from the field. Woodson, though, said he’ll better monitor his forward’s minutes: “He was probably a little sore and that’s probably the reason for [limiting his minutes]. So I’ve got to be open-minded to that and do what’s asked. That’s the right thing to do.”
Woodson added that he “shouldn’t have” played Stoudemire a season-high 28 minutes in the Knicks’ 102-96 loss to the Celtics, Monday night.
»Iman Shumpert could be back as early as next week, as the second-year shooting guard has been working with the team in 3-on-3 drills at the facilities and has even been seen dunking under team supervision.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.