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Knicks bumped up Kidd's cost to Mavs

Jason Kidd was conspicuously absent from yesterday's game between the Knicks and Mavericks. The team said the veteran point guard was excused for "personal reasons," and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Kidd went back to Dallas after the team's loss in Philadelphia on Friday night.

Cuban related the issue to a family matter and said Kidd will be available for the Mavericks' next game at home tomorrow. Kidd's ex-wife, Joumana, lives in Bergen County, N.J., with Kidd's children. The couple went through a messy and public divorce in 2007.

It was proximity to his children that had Kidd mulling an offer from the Knicks as a free agent last July. The Knicks offered a three-year midlevel exception contract worth $18 million, which pushed Cuban to guarantee an extra year on a three-year deal for $25 million. Cuban admitted he was concerned about the Knicks' involvement in Kidd.

"I just knew it was going to cost me money," Cuban said. "That's what it came down to."

With loads of salary-cap space this summer, the Knicks are expected to be major players in free agency. But while Cuban acknowledged New York is an attraction, he doesn't believe the Knicks have any advantage over other teams in the NBA for star players.

"I think with any top-tier player," Cuban said, "when there's multiple choices of money, it comes down to where he thinks he has the best chance to win."

Knicks fix

Jared Jeffries scored 12 points in the first quarter, the most he has scored in a quarter in his NBA career. Though he appeared to be en route to besting his career high in scoring (21), Jeffries wound up finishing with 14 points . . . Nate Robinson did not dress because of a hamstring strain, but Mike D'Antoni opted to leave him on the active roster rather than dress center Darko Milicic, who is healthy but has been inactive since Dec. 15.

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