Originally published: December 27, 2012 3:48 PM
Updated: December 27, 2012 8:14 PM
By NEIL BEST email@example.com
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Everyone understands that Jason Kidd is not a kid anymore, not with his 40th birthday less than three months away and after nearly two decades of NBA wear and tear.
But as Plan Bs go, he is a luxury for the Knicks, who can turn to a future Hall of Famer as they attempt to fill in for point guard Raymond Felton.
Felton consulted with a hand specialist in New York Thursday and was told that he does not need surgery but must wear a splint until the complex fracture heals. He is expected to miss four to six weeks.
Until Felton returns, the trick will be relying on Kidd without relying on him too much.
He has been starting at shooting guard and has been deployed judiciously, averaging 29.7 minutes. Mike Woodson would prefer to keep that figure roughly where it is, Felton or no Felton.
After Kidd orchestrated the shorthanded Knicks' 99-97 victory over the Suns on Wednesday, Woodson said, "Tonight he played a young 30 minutes, but I know I can't wear him down like that."
The plan is for Pablo Prigioni, currently averaging 13.3 minutes, to pick up much of the slack along with J.R. Smith and James White. Said Woodson, "We can mix and match and see what happens."
But there is little doubt that Kidd will have to assume most of the burden, especially late in games.
Against Phoenix, the Knicks went ahead 68-54 with 6:13 left in the third quarter and led 70-59 when Prigioni replaced Kidd 55 seconds later. The Suns then took control, and when they went ahead 80-76 with 10:55 left in the fourth quarter, Kidd returned and the Knicks immediately stabilized.
Kidd, who had seven points and three assists in the remainder of the fourth, finished with 23 points, eight assists, six rebounds and one turnover in 31 minutes. He set up Smith's buzzer-beater by neatly inbounding a bounce pass to him with one second left.
"J-Kidd is unbelievable,'' said Smith, who has hit two game-winners at the buzzer this month. "He plays so calm, he keeps everybody else under control, even though it's a hostile environment. He just communicates with everyone so well and makes everyone feel good about themselves."
Said Tyson Chandler, "He's never rattled and seems like he makes all the right plays . . . In the huddle, he just stands up and tells us exactly what's going on like he's coaching."
Kidd chose to sign with the Knicks over the Mavericks last summer, and even before Felton went down, he was an important pickup. He averages 8.7 points and 4.0 assists and is shooting .450 on three-pointers, ninth-best in the league.
How is he holding up physically? "I feel great, I feel great; there's nothing wrong," he said Wednesday. "You get maybe tired just like anybody else running all those pick-and-rolls, but you get used to it. The game of basketball is supposed to be fun, and that's what we're doing now."
Kidd said returning to primary playmaking responsibilities is not a concern. "For me, it's just playing basketball," he said. "As a point guard, it's being able to get the ball to the right guys in the right places. There's nothing different if I was playing the two-guard; it's just understanding what the defense is giving you and being able to knock down shots."
Felton ranks second on the team in scoring at 15.8 points per game and first in assists at 6.3. He hurt himself going after a ball with the Lakers' Steve Nash on Tuesday. An X-ray at halftime Wednesday revealed the fracture.
"I was hurt, I was angry, but it happens," he said. "It was a freak accident. Can't be too upset."
Smith is prepared to help at the point if called upon. He said he will study video of Felton setting up pick-and-roll plays. "I'm excited and I'm up for the challenge," he said.
Mostly, though, Kidd is the man.
Notes & quotes: Carmelo Anthony was termed "questionable" for Friday night's game against the Kings after sitting out Wednesday with a hyperextended left knee. The Knicks are 3-2 without him this season