LOS ANGELES - Few point guards maneuver with the skill and grace of the New Jersey Nets' Jason Kidd, and that dexterity is helping during All-Star weekend, as he has had to weave his way through the traffic of questions about the team's coaching change.
The Nets, fresh off two straight trips to the NBA Finals, dumped coach Byron Scott on Jan. 26 and replaced him with former assistant Lawrence Frank. In terms of wins and losses, the move was a good one, as the team has won 10 straight games - nine since Frank took over.
However, the change has taken its toll on Kidd's reputation, as it has been widely reported that he engineered the firing by repeatedly complaining to Nets president Rod Thorn.
"Those [labels] kind of come from you guys [media]," Kidd said. "In my case, I've always been labeled a coach-killer. Instead, I've been a coach-maker. If you look into the stats of all the coaches I played for, they all got fired after I left. If you want the truth, that's the truth."
Kidd quickly corrected himself when he thought about Scott, whom he said everyone on the team loved.
"We wouldn't have got to the Finals if that wasn't the case," Kidd said. "Things got real stagnant, and we were struggling as a team. The front office felt that something had to be done, I guess. It was that or make trades. Rod and the new ownership felt it was something that they needed to do."
Kidd added that he didn't feel guilty about Scott's firing.
"If we get traded, would they feel guilty?" Kidd said. "It's a job. In our case, for whatever coach I've played for, I've played hard. There are things that are sometimes out of your control. Management makes the decision. We have no say. We're employees. Our job is to win ballgames, and their job is to find the right combination."
Lenard takes 3-point event
The Denver Nuggets' Voshon Lenard denied the Sacramento Kings' Peja Stojakovic a third consecutive victory in the NBA All-Star three-point shooting contest.
Lenard edged Stojakovic, 18-16, in the final round.
"I knew it was going to be tough. He's a two-time champion," Lenard said. "I just tried to hang in there, but to win it over Peja, it's a privilege."
Stojakovic could have tied Larry Bird (1986-1988) and Craig Hodges (1990-1992) as a three-time winner.
F. Jones wins dunk contest
The Indiana Pacers' Fred Jones won the NBA dunk contest practically by default, dethroning two-time champion Jason Richardson of the Golden State Warriors when both missed their final jams.
"It was an honor to be out here, because Jason Richardson is one of the greatest dunkers ever," Jones said.
Shaq's MVP views
Former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart was speaking of pornography when he said he couldn't define it, but knew it when he saw it.
Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal feels similarly about Most Valuable Player candidates.
"When I was young and you guys [the media] used to vote for MVP, I thought it was a guy that was real, real special," said O'Neal, the 2000 winner. "For the last four or five or six years, I don't know what you all have been looking for."
O'Neal also said he does not yet know whether he'll play for the U.S. team at the Athens Olympics, and his decision could be affected by how far the Lakers go in the playoffs.
"I've done it twice, and I want to give other guys a chance to go," said O'Neal.
A feel for the U.S.
It hasn't taken Yao Ming, the Houston Rockets' second-year center, very long to get a feel for this country.
Asked what kind of American music he listened to, Yao, through an interpreter, said, "I like the national anthem. I listen to it at least 82 times a year."
The Associated Press contributed to this article.