1997-1998 Stats: 77 GP, 36.5 MPG, 17.2 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 44.0 FG%, 41.8 3P%, 80.8 FT%
1997-1998 Advanced: 52.5 TS%, 48.8 eFG%, 17.5 PER, 115 ORtg, 107 DRtg, 8.4 WS
All-Star Team? No
Team: 43-39, lost in first round to Chicago Bulls (3-0)
The excitement was Jason Kidd finding Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin for alley-oops. Kerry Kittles was a cog in the system, just a piece of the puzzle.Kerry Kittles is often a footnote, an afterthought in the madness that surrounded the New Jersey Nets’ back-to-back NBA Finals appearances.
But nobody gives Kerry Kittles credit: he revitalized the New Jersey Nets franchise.
In 1996, Kerry Kittles was drafted to a team that was a combined 60-104 the two years prior and losing fans. Shawn Bradley, a player who was most famous for being dunked on and losing all semblance of skill in Space Jam, was a major rotation player.
Now, I’m not saying that Kerry Kittles was as important to the New Jersey Nets as Michael Jordan was to the Toon Squad. But I’m also not saying he wasn’t.
Kittles was a model of professionalism and hustle, jumpstarting an organization that really hadn’t achieved anything. If you watch Kerry Kittles, it wasn’t as if he was a threat to drop forty points a night (He only scored more than 30 once in ’97-’98), but it was his attention to detail that makes him a Nets legend.
Always ready to do the dirty work, Kittles made the backdoor cuts, finished around the rim and filled the lane like an expert, traits that helped him fit seamlessly with Jason Kidd a few years later. In ’97-’98, Kittles did a little bit of everything, contributing across the board statistically, leading a team without a leader to the playoffs.
The Nets hadn’t tasted the postseason since the 1993-1994 season, teasing them of things to come down the road. For the most part, the 90’s were a dark period of basketball for the New Jersey Nets, only making the playoffs four of the ten years and losing in the first round each time.
And isn’t that what being a Nets fan has been? Learning how to love in the face of adversity and defeat? Sticking around through losing seasons and embarrassment? Kerry Kittles is all of us, and we are all Kerry Kittles.