Originally created 06/19/03

Kidd leaving Nets? Only Elmo knows



EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Byron Scott, Kenyon Martin and Richard Jefferson have no idea whether Jason Kidd will return to the New Jersey Nets. Maybe Elmo, Big Bird or Mickey Mouse will find out sooner.

Kidd, the superstar point guard who becomes a free agent July 1, says his first priority after losing for a second straight time in the NBA Finals is to visit amusement parks with his wife and kids.

"I'm on my way to Sesame World or Disney World," he said before cleaning out his locker at the Nets' practice facility, perhaps for the last time. And while he fumbled the name of Sesame Place, the Pennsylvania theme park popular with kids about the same age as his 4-year-old son T.J., Kidd knows he'll score wherever he lands.

"My decision is going to be based strictly on winning a championship."

Kidd reiterated his first choice is to stay with the Nets, but would not rule out signing elsewhere. He spoke of the chemistry and loyalty he feels to his teammates and the satisfaction of seeing the franchise become of the NBA's elite teams, then said, "There are a lot of good teams out there that I could help win a championship."

The Spurs, who beat New Jersey 4-2 in this year's finals, could be the only team with the money available to offer Kidd the kind of contract he wants.

Kidd earned $10 million this past season. The Nets will be able to pay him 30 percent of next year's salary cap to start, plus annual raises of 12.5 percent. The cap is expected to be somewhere between $36 million and $40 million.

The Nets were 26-56 the year before Kidd arrived. They were 101-63 in the two regular seasons that led to conference championships.

Scott, the Nets' coach, said he hopes Kidd will return, and joked that the team could still "fly him around to every golf course he wants to play in Jersey."

"He gave this team and this organization new life," Scott said. "He understands how we feel about him. I'm sure he'll make the right decision for him and his family."

Jefferson said Kidd is important to the franchise, as well as to himself and Martin.

"We have our superstar and two young players that feed off him so much," Jefferson said. "He is the world to us. He taught us how to play the game of basketball."

Kidd said he has enjoyed his two years with New Jersey, and can see himself winning a title here.

"Jersey is still my first choice," he said. "We've laid the foundation and we're ready to build a house, knowing how to win. I would love to stay here. I will give them every opportunity to get it done."

But then he added, "crazy things can happen."

"There are so many other opportunities out there," he said. "You can't rule any of those out. I'm not going to say no to anything right now. I have a decision to make and I'm going to take some time to make it."

If he does leave, Kidd believes the Nets will still stay strong.

"If I'm not here, these guys have learned how to win," he said. "That doesn't mean they're going to fall off the face of the Earth. One person doesn't hold the key; it takes a team to win."

When asked what he likes about New Jersey off the court, Kidd thought for a moment.

"We've got great restaurants," he said. "And the weather's pretty good," he added, rolling his eyes on yet another rainy day in an uncommonly cold, wet spring. "Are we still in winter?"