EAST RUTHERFORD – Devin Harris wanted this game and did everything to make sure the Nets got it.
He tried to downplay it beforehand. Everyone did, but you knew that either Harris or Jason Kidd would have a big part in the result of Friday’s night’s game at Izod Center.
The Nets are happy it was Harris who stole the show, scoring 41 points and dishing out 13 assists in a 121-97 romp of the Mavericks.
It continued the trend of Harris raising his game against the better point guards. But it was more than that because he was playing his old team. Harris wanted to beat the Mavericks more than he did Kidd and wound up doing both.
Kidd played well, but not nearly as well as Harris. Kidd had 17 points and seven assists. It ho-hum compared to Harris’ home run.
Vince Carter, who finished with 34 points, said Harris never talked about how important this game was. But afterward Harris said he had “a little something extra in the tank.”
You could tell by his play, his gestures, his chest bumps, even if he said nothing to his teammates.
“He just played a great game,” Carter said. “He wasn’t trying too hard. He was cool, calm and collected. It was great to see.”
It was Kidd’s first game back in New Jersey since he was traded on Feb. 19, but the night belonged to the point guard for whom he was traded. Harris attacked from the start and didn’t stop until he left the game with 2:11 left and the Nets ahead by 26.
Moments later, the fans that came out in the snow, the same ones that cheered for Kidd in the intros, chanted, “Thank you, Cu-ban.” That was amazing. These fans loved Kidd for all those years. I almost expected a “Thank you, Ja-son,” but instead they thanked Dallas owner Mark Cuban for sending Harris to New Jersey.
It’s hard to deny that the Nets got the better of the deal. The Mavericks may win more games this year, but the Nets have the bright future and Harris is a big reason.
With each game, he’s climbing into the hierarchy of NBA point guards. He’s playing as well as anyone and proving to be as clutch as anyone.
It’s too bad there weren’t more fans here, that the weather had to play a little nasty trick on the Nets and Kidd. They were expecting a big crowd, and I was expecting an even louder ovation for Kidd.
Maybe it was his karma after the way he forced his way out of New Jersey. It certainly seemed like it was his karma the way Harris outplayed Kidd and the Nets routed his team.
But it probably was fitting the crowd was light since one of the things Kidd always talked about was the bad home crowds the Nets got. True to form, the half-empty Meadowlands wasn’t lost on him.
“The first time I was in New Jersey, that’s what the crowd looked like — about 3,000 people,” Kidd said. “That was the first thought and all the good and bad times we had. Those were some of the things going through my head. But the first thing was just that opening night I had here in front of maybe 3,000 people.”
The announced 9,889 fans that were here were loud, though, and extremely supportive of the Nets and Harris. If he didn’t feel like he belonged or was wanted he should now.
On the night the Nets best NBA player returned, the fans said thanks, but we’re good.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)