by Lang Whitaker

During the Hawks/Mavs game on Friday night, I saw one of the most curious things I’ve ever seen in an NBA game.

Late in the game, the Hawks were clinging to a two-point lead and Dallas had the ball. Jason Kidd, who was in the midst of an incredible game, had the ball and as he crossed halfcourt, he accelerated down the left sideline — it looked briefly like he was trying to reach the timeline before calling a TO. Hawks coach Mike Woodson was standing just on the court, and Kidd suddenly ran veered directly at him. Woody jumped back just as Kidd reached him and swung out his left arm and made contact, and the refs blew the whistle. Then all heck broke loose.

I wasn’t sure exactly what had happened. Did Jason Kidd really go over and initiate contact with Mike Woodson? Seriously? Here’s how it looked in real time with just the one quick replay of it…

Upon watching about a dozen more replays, and seeing it in slow motion and from varied angles, we now know what really happened:

• Kidd ran up the court and saw that Woodson was out on the floor directing the Hawks defense.

• Kidd decided to make contact with Woodson, because if he made contact with Woodson the refs would presumably be forced to call a technical foul on Woody.

• Kidd ran over to where Woodson was.

• Woodson saw him coming and attempted to jump backwards off the court.

• Kidd continued on his crash course with Woodson, stepped out of bounds with his left foot, then swung his left arm out and touched Mike Woodson.

So what should the call on the play have been? The refs had three options…

1) Kidd was out of bounds before he made contact with Woody. On replays, this is the correct call, the one that should have been made. The refs, however, didn’t see his foot, probably because they were so shocked that he was going out of his way to run into the coach.

2) If Mike Woodson got back out of bounds before Kidd touched him, then it should have been the Hawks ball because Kidd touched someone who was standing out of bounds.

3) A technical should have been called on Mike Woodson for being out of the coach’s box.

After a brief consultation, the refs went with option three, which was the most obvious call and, in retrospect, the most incorrect call of the choices available to them. Let’s just say I have a feeling we won’t be seeing Ronnie Nunn break this one down in slow motion anytime soon.

Mavs fans immediately pulled out their rule books and resorted to arguing semantics. Hey, they said, coaches are not allowed to outside of the coach’s box at any time. OK, then explain this. Technical! Call it! Look, the ref is right there!

I sent an email to my main man Mike Fisher over at Dallasbasketball.com about this, and he ran it and responded, and noted that it’s not illegal for coaches to exit the coaching box, but once they exit they have to make an immediate effort to return. To which I’d say, didn’t you see Mike Woodson leap backwards into the coaching box? I’m not sure what that was if it wasn’t an effort to return to the coaching box.

Look, regardless of whether or not the refs got the call correct — and they didn’t — the question I’ve wrestled with is, Was this the right play to make on Jason Kidd’s part?

Mike also wrote that the best way to describe what the Kidd did is that he “tattled” on Mike Woodson — Kidd pointed out to the refs that Woodson was doing something illegal. I thought that was a great description, although as I wrote to Mike, the thing is, nobody likes a tattletale. Is Mike Woodson the only coach in the League who does this? Good grief no. I’d go so far as to say every coach in the NBA goes out on the court, except for maybe Phil Jackson, and that’s because Phil has bionic hips and has to sit on a throne.

NBA coaches wander all over the place, and the general rule seems to be it’s OK to do this as long as they don’t interfere with the play. Mike Woodson was not interfering with the play in that Hawks/Mavs game.

Was it a smart play to make by Kidd? I guess it worked for Kidd and Dallas. He forced the refs to make a call, the refs blew it, missed the correct call and made a call in Dallas’s favor, and the Mavs came back and shut down the Hawks in OT for the win.

Lost in all of this is that Jason Kidd had probably his best game of the season, with 19 points, 17 assists and 16 rebounds. That’s what we should be talking about, instead of all this other crap.

But that’s what happens when you are the whistle-blower in order to get a whistle blown. Instead of us talking about a great Dallas comeback and an amazing performance from one of the League’s premium point guards, Jason “The Informant!” Kidd made it about rules and interpretations.

Also, I think this is what happened after the game…