MIAMI -- Back in 2003, the San Antonio Spurs put a stop to the Los Angeles Lakers' efforts to become the first team to win four straight NBA championships since the Boston Celtics won eight straight titles from 1959 to 1967. The Spurs beat the Lakers in six games during the conference semifinals, dispatched the the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals, and then beat the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals.
At the time, the Spurs had a plucky young point guard named Tony Parker learning with on-the-job experience and they were facing arguably the best point guard in the league at the time in Jason Kidd of the Nets. Kidd was a free agent that coming summer and had narrowly lost the MVP vote to Tim Duncan the previous season. The Spurs had dreams of putting Kidd next to Duncan ... and Parker.
"Well, your question infers that there was an either/or, and that would be false," Popovich explained on Wednesday. "That's not what I had in mind at all. I wanted both of them. It wasn't to get rid of Tony Parker. Tony was really young, and I had a hard time convincing him of that. But I was probably a little bit out of the bubble machine at the time. It seemed to me that it would be a great move if we could get Jason to help mentor Tony.
My illustrious NBA career ended a week and a half. So what the hell am I going to teach him about being a point guard?"
Could that have worked? Could the Spurs have pulled off a lightning-quick backcourt with two point guards possessing shaky jumpers? Would the positives have outweighed the negatives and given the Spurs a run of titles as Kidd molded Parker into a future playmaker? What was the plan?
"I thought that Jason Kidd being there," Popovich said, "being the mentally tough person that he is and with his skills, that would be the greatest education for Tony Parker. And Tony can go play 2. Let him play the 2 position. He was a scoring guard at the time anyway. Not a great shooter, but we could figure it out, and let Jason be the point. As Jason gets older, let him move over to 2, let Tony take 1. Brilliant, brilliant. This is great. Let's go get this thing done. Tony did not love that idea at all. But we still tried to do it."
This may end up being one of the great "what-ifs" of the past two decades. Had the Spurs convinced Kidd to join Parker and Duncan would they have become even more of a dynasty than what we've seen over the past 15 years? Having Tim Duncan in his prime, Jason Kidd in his prime, a developing Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili backing them both up as the Sixth Man could have developed into one of the best quartets the NBA has ever seen.
Instead, Kidd re-signed with the Nets for six years and $99 million but never led them to another NBA Finals after taking them to back-to-back championship series in 2002 and 2003. Kidd finally got his championship ring in 2011 as a member of the Dallas Mavericks.