Sports

Kidd's return has Dallas Mavericks humming

LOS ANGELES -- Two games last week against Sacramento and Golden State sum up why Jason Kidd is so important to the Dallas Mavericks in their bid to repeat as NBA champions.

The Mavs went 1-3 and averaged just 89 points per game when Kidd recently missed four games with a strained right groin. But as soon as the 18-year veteran returned last week, the Mavs scored 110 points in a 10-point win over the Kings, then 112 in a nine-point win over the Warriors.

Kidd has Peyton Manning-like qualities in that he knows how to make pinpoint passes, and he also brings a calming influence to the Mavs.

"When you have struggles you can easily see the things that you miss when he's out," coach Rick Carlisle said. "I guess more than anything it speaks to the level of competitiveness that he brings to the game in general, and to our team.

"He's battled through a lot of pain this year to stay on the floor when he has."

With that in mind, Carlisle gave Kidd a "scheduled rest" and didn't even dress him for Friday's game at Portland, which was the second game of a back-to-back. The Mavericks beat Portland 97-94, squandering much of an 81-61 lead to start the fourth quarter.

Kidd, however, will be back in the starting lineup at 2:30 p.m. today when the Mavs square off against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.

The Mavs are being careful with Kidd, who turned 39 last month and just finished returning from his third injury this season. That's why Carlisle is contemplating not playing him in Monday's game at Utah.

From Jan. 7-13, Kidd missed four games with a lower back injury. He also missed six games from Jan. 29-Feb. 8 with a strained right calf, in addition to the four games he missed April 2-7 with that strained right groin.

Kidd said the groin has bothered him all season. That's why Carlisle decided to rest him after a 100-98 victory over Orlando on March 30.

"The last week it seems as though we were able to address some of the direct problems and really start to get results," Carlisle said. "Again, we want to be careful as we're moving on here."

Kidd, who would like to play until he's at least 40, agreed that the four-game rest was needed.

"We just felt that give it some time to rest and see how that responded and give it a week and see if I could go," he said. "The rest definitely helped."

The Mavs know that resting Kidd on either the front or back end of a back-to-back increases his chances of being productive and fresher once the playoffs start. They also know a groin injury can linger, and they can ill afford to have a gimpy Kidd hobbling around once the playoffs start.

"We've had some positive movements in the right directions," Carlisle said. "From there, we'll proceed."

Kidd had seven points, six rebounds, six assists and a season-high two blocks against the Kings. Then he came up one point shy of his 106th career triple-double when he collected nine points, 10 rebounds and a season-high 12 assists -- along with two blocks and three steals -- in the win over the Warriors.

"You miss the direction that he brings to the game, the leadership, the playmaking, the shot-making, all that stuff," Carlisle said. "You're talking about a first ballot Hall of Famer.

"A great player is a great player."

Dwain Price, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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