With respect to Jason Kidd, I'm not sure what to believe about Headachegate.
Under ordinary circumstances, I would dismiss vaguely sourced reports that Kidd sat out last Wednesday's game against the Knicks in protest over the Nets' unwillingness to discuss a contract extension (Kidd will make $19.7 million this season and $21.4 million next season in the final year if his contract). Nets officials have vehemently denied that Kidd had anything other than a migraine headache that day. Kidd, meanwhile, has been proactive in his defense, calling an impromptu news conference the day after the game and appearing on the Mike and the Mad Dog radio show.
"I did have a migraine and I was sick," Kidd said on the New York-based program. "I would never disrespect the game by not playing ... my teammates [either]. If I could go out and put the uniform on and help, I would. I don't know where this is all coming from."
Before the season, I asked Kidd if he felt comfortable finishing his career in a Nets uniform. He told me yes, but at the time I remember thinking that it wasn't the most convincing answer I had ever heard.
Certainly this would be less of an issue had Kidd not tried to force his way out of New Jersey before. In 2005, reports circulated that Kidd, unhappy with the direction of the team, asked Nets president Rod Thorn to be traded. Moreover, Kidd has rarely been afraid to speak out when he is displeased. In Phoenix, Kidd expressed bitterness about the Suns' organization, including former coach Scott Skiles, whom he taunted during a game after being dealt to New Jersey in 2001. In Dallas, Kidd openly questioned former Mavericks coach Jim Cleamons' triangle offense.
While Kidd's teammates have stood behind him publicly, there is some uncertainty. Rumors are filtering through the league, relayed to me by league sources, that the Nets' locker room isn't as united as it once was. Watching from press row last Friday in New Jersey, I saw a listless team struggle just to remain competitive with the Houston Rockets.
"If anyone knows something I don't know, let me know," Nets forward Richard Jefferson said last week. "I don't want to feel like a jackass coming out here and defending my teammate if someone can say they know for a fact. Does anyone here know for a fact? No one knows for a fact?"
Kidd's personal wants aside, the controversy has highlighted the fact that the Nets, who have lost three straight games and are tied with Cleveland for the final playoff spot in the East, need to decide what direction they want to move in. Jefferson suggested over the weekend that the Nets needed to shake things up on the court to be more successful. Owner Bruce Ratner will dole out $45 million this year to Kidd, Jefferson and Vince Carter, and in all likelihood the best return on his investment that he can hope for is winning one playoff series. At 34, Kidd is still playing at an elite level and would fetch considerable talent in any trade. Carter could also be appealing to a team that feels it is one star away from contending.
But the Nets have to decide -- quickly -- whether they want to continue down a path with a predetermined outcome or if they want to roll the dice, trade the face of their franchise and try to build it back up again.