Out with the new, in with the old in Mavs-Nuggets
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER ” Move over Tony Parker and Chris Paul. Make way for the old guards.
The second-round series between Dallas and Denver that begins Sunday at the Pepsi Center features two veteran floor leaders in point guards Jason Kidd, 36, of the Mavericks and Chauncey Billups, 32, of the Nuggets.
“Two old dogs,” Kenyon Martin said.
One great matchup, proclaimed Nuggets coach George Karl and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle.
Kidd sent Parker packing along with the rest of the San Antonio Spurs, and Billups gave Paul and the New Orleans Hornets an early start on their summer break, too.
Billups and Kidd have met in the postseason before. Kidd’s Nets swept Billups’ Pistons in the 2003 Eastern Conference finals but bowed out to Detroit in the semifinals in ’04, when Billups got his ring.
“It’s been five years, they’re probably a step slower, but they’re smarter,” said Martin, who has a unique perspective on the matchup because he played with Kidd back then and he’s on Billups’ side now.
Billups said he hasn’t had to make concessions for age: “I’m still in my prime right now, so I haven’t had to.”
Kidd free acknowledges he’s changed his game as he’s gotten older, and Martin said Kidd’s only gotten better since they parted ways five years ago.
“The older you get, the more you have to think,” Martin said. “He’s always been a thinker on the court. But I think he’s thinking more than he ever has. I think that’s why they’re playing as well as they are.”
Billups is the main reason the Nuggets made it out of the first round for the first time in 15 years.
“Chauncey’s probably a better scorer than Jason is, but Jason’s probably a better passer,” Karl said. “But the orchestration of their teams, they’ve been doing it for years. Chauncey’s done it for six years (in Detroit) and now he’s done it for us. Jason was incredible for many, many years, and now he’s doing it with Dallas.”
Carlisle has coached both men. He had Billups in Detroit in 2003 before facing him with Indiana in the 2004 and ’05 playoffs.
“If you’re a young player who plays the point guard position, watch this series because you’re going to see two of the best and most experienced in the game,” Carlisle said. “And you’re going to see contrasting styles. Each guy leads his team in a different way.
“They lean on Chauncey for scoring a little more than we need to with Jason, but they both can put the ball in the hole, they both have a pulse on the players they’re playing with. It’s like a better basketball DVD ” just stick around and watch it because you’ll see great play at that position.”
A blueprint on how to play the point?
“Well, that’s a great compliment,” Kidd said. “But when you look at Billups’ resume, he has a championship, he was the MVP, he’s been a winner wherever he’s gone. He’s come to Denver in the trade and changed the atmosphere here with some talented guys, so they’re probably watching him more than they’re watching me.
“For each of us, I think our careers have gotten better, but he has the trophy that I want.”
Billups considers this a wholly different challenge than he had in facing Paul, the Hornets’ ultra-quick All-Star point guard who was constantly hounded by double teams.
“With Jason you’ve got to worry about so many things,” Billups said. “He’s such a great rebounder, so you try to keep him off the glass. He’s a great standstill shooter, so you’ve got to try to keep him from spotting up. And he’s just one of the best facilitators of all time. Most of his damage he does is in transition and it’s tough to guard people in transition.”
What both men have in common is the know-how that comes from years of playoff experience.
“It’s big because as you advance each round it gets more challenging on every level,” Carlisle said. “The competition gets better, the intensity of the buildings, each guy has to manage the emotions of the younger players on his team. The respective leadership qualities of each guy will go a long way in deciding how well their teammates play. It’s a great matchup.”
Dallas All-Star Dirk Nowitzki said besides being winners, “both of them a a lot of experience and they just carry something about themselves out there that makes you follow them. That should be a fun one to watch.”
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The third weekend of play begins Thursday and runs through Sunday with the Bantam B, Squirt A and Squirt B divisions. Because of safety protocols, spectators aren’t allowed.