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NY Times: Jason Kidd Files for Divorce

January 10, 2007

LAWYER: Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich, Esq. — EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Jan. 9 — The morning before he played the 900th N.B.A. game of his career, Nets point guard Jason Kidd felt compelled to address his personal life, and not for the first time. Kidd obtained a temporary restraining order against his wife, Joumana, on Monday and filed for divorce Tuesday, the latest chapter in a marriage whose turbulent moments have played out in public.

“Right now, it’s a tough and difficult situation for our family,” Kidd said at the team’s shoot-around. “We would ask for any family matters that we’re going to work through to be private and just to give us the respect that we need.”

Kidd’s lawyer, Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich, filed the divorce papers in state Superior Court in Hackensack, N.J. The divorce papers cite extreme cruelty directed at Kidd. The couple has three children — a son, T. J., 8, and twin daughters, Miah and Jazelle, 5.

Among the numerous charges, the papers contend that Joumana sat with T. J. in her front-row seat at Continental Arena on Dec. 27 and “started to shout personal insults” at Kidd throughout a game. At least one member of the Nets’ staff witnessed the incident but could not hear her because she was too far away.

Raoul Felder, the Manhattan divorce lawyer who is one of the lawyers representing Joumana Kidd, said in a telephone interview Tuesday night that she would file a counterclaim.

“If anybody has grounds for extreme cruelty, she has allegations of it and she is prepared to prove it,” Felder said.

New Jersey is a no-fault divorce state, meaning the judge will not make a decision based on the actions of either party.

The Kidds, who married in February 1997, separated about a month ago.

“She has a right to say what she wants,” Kidd said of his wife. “For me, what’s done is done. We’re going to move forward to try to solve the situation.”

Kidd shut out the tumultuous last 24 hours Tuesday night to pace the Nets to a 101-86 victory over the Toronto Raptors at Continental Arena. He finished with 14 assists, 10 points and 8 rebounds, but admitted he could not completely forget about his personal life.

“I’m human,” he said after the game before greeting his mother. “I never try to cross the two or bring the two together.”

Kidd’s play helped the Nets (15-19) win their fourth game out of their last five, as they tried to overcome the inconsistency that has plagued them this season.

Rod Thorn, the Nets’ president, said the personal turmoil would not distract the 33-year-old Kidd.

“I think with Jason, he has an innate ability that few have to concentrate and to focus on whatever is at hand,” Thorn said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “That’s what makes him a great player.”

When Kidd played for the Phoenix Suns, he was arrested in 2001 on suspicion of domestic violence assault after his wife accused him of striking her during an argument about their son. Kidd entered a plea agreement in which he was fined $200 and underwent counseling for anger management. Kidd apologized in a news conference with Joumana by his side, promising to work on their relationship.

Kidd resurrected his image and his career in his first two years in New Jersey, leading the formerly hapless Nets to N.B.A. finals appearances in 2002 and 2003. The Nets’ struggles this season cannot be pinned on Kidd, Coach Lawrence Frank said. “He is our most consistent player,” Frank said.

Early in Kidd’s time with the Nets, his wife usually took a prominent sideline seat at home games. During the 2003 Eastern Conference semifinals in Boston, fans hurled insults at Kidd, calling him a wife beater, while she sat in the stands.

Soon after moving into the New York metropolitan area, Joumana Kidd became a freelance television reporter for a celebrity newsmagazine. She also worked for NBA TV.

When Kidd was a free agent in the summer of 2003, he signed a six-year, $103.5 million contract with the Nets, spurning an opportunity to play for the San Antonio Spurs. His wife’s desire to live in a major metropolitan area was a factor in his decision to sign with the Nets.

Felder said the temporary restraining order was misinterpreted Monday night by the police in Saddle River, N.J., where Joumana Kidd lives with the couple’s children. Felder said that the police forced her to leave the house, although the order was simply to allow Kidd to enter the house to claim his belongings.

Felder said a Bergen County judge amended the restraining order Tuesday to restrict the contact between Kidd and his wife, but not between the couple and their children, as an initial newspaper report inferred.

Kidd is not the only star player on the Nets who is going through marital problems. Vince Carter and his wife, Ellen, are also living apart.

At the shoot-around, Kidd insisted he would not be distracted. During the game, he proved it.