What was the most important lesson that former NBA star Jason Kidd ever learned in the NBA? Slow down. That’s what coaches and veteran players used to say to him over and over again.
“Young guys in the league don’t know how to “slow down.” I know, because I was one of those hot shot young players and I didn’t have any idea. Go slower? I wasn’t hearing it,” Kidd said in PlayersTribune. “Was it like when you’re driving through a 35 MPH zone and you see a state trooper and you slow down to 30? Slowing down was the opposite of how I approached the game. I didn’t see the point.”
“Coming into the league, I knew I had two strengths: I could post guys up. And I was fast. Why would I want to take away one of my advantages? When I left college, I was nervous about competing in a bigger, faster league,” Kidd said.
He went on to say that with the Dallas Mavericks, during his first two years in the league, he thought he had to rely on his speed to survive.
“Looking back, my mistake was that I only had one gear. The fastest gear,” he said.
“As a young player, you think you can take ‘em all. Three guys in front of me? I can take ‘em all. I thought I knew better. I would get the ball — I’d board it myself if I could — and I’d just take off. Fast break after fast break, I would beat my own guys down the court. My teammates would always be behind me, trying to catch up. They would say “We can’t run with you.” I was off to the races,” Kidd recalled.
“A lot of times I could take on the whole team. But I wasn’t a shoot-first point guard, so I would end up having to throw the ball backwards to make plays. Or I would force a tough shot. Sometimes I would get fouled or make a great shot, but there were a lot of bad shots in there,” he said.
Former NBA All-Star recalled that it took him more than two years to figure out that this wasn’t the best way to run the break.
“Around the time I joined the Suns, things clicked. There’s a saying in basketball, “Let the play develop.” Two and a half years into the league, I started to figure out what it meant. Passing lanes appeared out of nowhere. My options multiplied. The court opened up and the game slowed down. And I definitely stopped shooting as many forced shots,” he said.
Kidd believes thereis a rhytm to how a play unfolds in the NBA, and there’s a “certain song to it, and the good players move with the song”.
“You have to be aware of spacing — that may be the most important thing,” Kidd said. “Look at the veteran San Antonio teams and how good their spacing is. They’re never right on top of each other and never too far away. Look at their ball movement. Look at how they move as a unit and how they never look frenzied. You can’t force spacing or timing — you gotta let it develop. Good teams beat you with speed. Great teams beat you with spacing and timing.”
He said slowing down doesn’t mean taking it easy.
“Nineteen and 20-year-old guys want to rush. Some rookies think they have to go fast because it’s the NBA, but a lot of them go so fast that it just messes up the whole play. You can be the fastest guy around, but if you match up the fastest against a guy with good timing, and I’ll choose the second guy every time,” he said.
Kidd recalled that when he got older and lost a step or two, the concept of slowing down helped him even more.
“Young guys still couldn’t beat me because they were easier to predict,” he said. “They’d be running around crazy, spending all their energy, and I would know exactly where they’d be on the floor.”
Kidd advised to “take it down a gear”, as the game is easier to play this way.
Kidd was named an NBA All-Star 10 times in his 19 NBA seasons. He played 1391 games in the NBA, starting in 1350 of them. Kidd holds career averages of 12.6 ppg, 5 rpg and 6.3 apg in 36 minutes on the court.
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