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Jason Kidd embraces leadership role with Knicks

Jason Kidd passes the ball during a game

Jason Kidd passes the ball during a game against the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden. (Nov. 2, 2012) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Jason Kidd can't carry his team to wins the way he did earlier in his career. But he's helped the Knicks to a 3-0 start with his words as much his play.

At 39, Kidd is more of a vocal leader than he ever was with the Nets. Kidd said he "didn't have time to talk" then because he was so involved in every play. His Knicks teammates, including Carmelo Anthony, are listening intently to Kidd, a likely first-ballot Hall of Famer who won a championship with Dallas.

"I've finished the race for first place, which helps," Kidd said. "I'm not the same player who had the ball 90 percent of the time. As I've gotten older and my game has gone down, I've just had to sharpen my mental aspect of the game, and that's what I rely on right now."

Kidd will face his old team Friday night when the NBA's only remaining unbeaten team hosts Dallas at the Garden. The Mavericks are off to a surprising 4-1 start as Dirk Nowitzki recovers from knee surgery. Dallas also is without Shawn Marion because of a sprained knee.

Much has been made about Kidd's relationship with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who said he wouldn't retire Kidd's number after he picked the Knicks during free agency. But Kidd said this game doesn't have any extra significance for him.

"I've been through that," Kidd said. "Maybe at 23 years old, but I think it's a great compliment that a 39-year-old is still talked about in this league. That's to my teammates' credit that they can keep me going."

Kidd said staying in Dallas was his first choice. He signed a three-year, $9.3-million deal with the Knicks, which reportedly was roughly the same offer that Dallas made. He said he liked the direction the Knicks were heading.

After Dallas won the title in 2011, Cuban let some key players go, including Tyson Chandler. Kidd said he and Chandler spoke and it helped him make his decision.

"I even talked to Tyson during the lockout season," Kidd said. "I thought they had a team that could be competitive. That always stuck in the back of my mind over the summer . . . It was a hard decision, but I think I made the right one."

The Knicks think so, too. Kidd started the first three games at shooting guard, averaging 9.0 points, 3.7 assists and 2.0 steals in 22 minutes. He's also shooting 57.1 percent overall, and 54.5 from three. But he's meant more to the Knicks than just numbers.

"Jason is very vocal in the locker room and on the bench," Anthony said. "Not so much on the court. But the one thing he brings to this team is his knowledge."

Kidd said he talks to Anthony all the time, and is trying to make him a better player.

"I want him to have a great year, but I want him to fulfill what he thinks his potential is, and that's to be one of the best in this league," Kidd said. "So for that I'm here to help him. If I think he's taking a step back, I got to push him to bring that to him. From day one, he's been going forward, and you can see that in his play."

Camby to play tonight. Mike Woodson said Marcus Camby "absolutely" would make his season debut tonight. With Camby, who missed most of camp with a strained left calf, in the mix, the big-man rotation will change. Rasheed Wallace's minutes increased last game and Kurt Thomas' decreased.

New York Sports