Jason Kidd has been here so many times before -- 146 times, to be precise.
Kidd, the Knicks' future Hall of Fame point guard, has played more postseason games than any other player in the Eastern Conference. In the whole NBA, only Derek Fisher, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker have seen more postseason action.
Kidd has played in more playoff games than five of his Knicks teammates have played regular-season games in their entire NBA careers. When Kidd walks onto the floor Saturday at Madison Square Garden for Game 1 of the Knicks' first-round matchup against the Celtics, his hunger to win still will be there in his 147th playoff appearance.
"This is just a small step," Kidd said after the Knicks clinched the Atlantic Division title. "I don't get excited about this. It's just a small step to where we want to go."
Where the Knicks want to go is deep in the playoffs, and they hope Kidd and his experience can help them get there.
There is one big difference between this postseason run and Kidd's 17 previous ones: This will be the first time that he is not a starter. Kidd, who signed a three-year contract at the start of the season, hasn't started a game for the Knicks since Feb. 27, and, despite the injury to Pablo Prigioni, the Knicks would rather have Kidd come off the bench.
Whether or not Kidd starts, there is little doubt that the Knicks will rely heavily on his playoff experience. Kidd has been to the NBA Finals three times, winning a title two years ago with the Mavericks and losing twice with the Nets.
Kidd is not a player who is going to lose his composure -- it's hard to imagine him punching a fire extinguisher in the hallway, as Amar'e Stoudemire did last year -- and the Knicks hope that attitude will make a big difference.
"I think that's one of the reasons the organization brought Kidd here, for his experience and what he's able to bring not just in the regular season, but what he's able to do in the postseason," Carmelo Anthony said. "It's kind of self-explanatory what he brings to the game. We're looking forward to the experience he has coming down the stretch."
Kidd averaged a career-low 6.0 points this season but played a huge role in getting the Knicks to 54 wins because of his hot three-point shooting at the beginning of the season, when they won 18 of their first 23 games. Most importantly, Kidd still has the kind of court savvy and mental toughness that are at a premium in the playoffs.
"He's been through the battles as a player," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. "He's battle-tested."
"Whenever we got to the fourth quarter of a playoff game, no matter who we played, he would be the guy who guarded the best one, two or three on the floor," Thorn said. " . . . In the last five minutes, he just had it. He was so tough mentally, he wouldn't let you lose."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said the addition of Kidd has gone a long way toward upping the Knicks' toughness.
"Jason Kidd is ageless. The thing about Kidd is mentally he hasn't slowed down," Thibodeau said. "His decision-making, he can be 75 and his decision-making is still going to be good. He has great vision. He's a great leader. What he's done for that organization and team is amazing. It says a lot about him."