’s Mark Stein reporting today on Jason Kidd’s determined attempts to force his way out of New Jersey.

(A) move is going to happen eventually for Jason Kidd. Probably not until he gets back on the floor and proves there’s some stability in his surgically repaired left knee, but there is a working list of at least three possible Western Conference destinations for Kidd, who has pursued a trade away from the Nets’ new owners even harder than Shaquille O’Neal tried to leave the Lakers.

Sources on various fronts insist that Kidd himself, or one of his representatives, initiated contact with either a player or executives from no fewer than five Western Conference contenders during this past offseason: San Antonio, Minnesota, Denver, Dallas and Shaq’s old team in Los Angeles.

As soon as Kidd is back in a New Jersey uniform, other teams will get serious about putting him in their uniform.
The Spurs, who pursued Kidd harder than any other team this side of Jersey in his free-agent summer of 2003, are no longer interested, sources say. They’re not prepared, as much as the Spurs still love Kidd, to break up their Tim Duncan-Manu Ginobili-Tony Parker base to absorb on the $90 million owed to Kidd, 31, over the next five seasons.

The Lakers, meanwhile, have already rejected formal Kidd trade proposals, opting to move the expiring contracts of Gary Payton and Rick Fox to Boston instead. Sources say that’s because L.A. thinks it has a better shot at signing Houston’s Yao Ming in the summer of 2007, with Rudy Tomjanovich as its coach, than many believe. As one rival executive noted, Yao could sign with the Lakers for the mid-level exception (nearly $5 million) — even though it would never come to that — and easily recoup any lost salary through the myriad endorsement opportunities he’d have as a Laker. Whether its Yao dreams are worthwhile or merely fantasy, L.A. prefers to grind through the next couple seasons, no matter how hard they are, and see what it can do with salary-cap room two or three offseasons from now . . . as opposed to committing well over $200 million to a too-small pairing of Kidd with Kobe Bryant.

That leaves the Wolves, Nuggets and Mavericks, which means Kidd can still claim three handy options. Minnesota, at present, would have to be the favorite to wind up with Kidd, given owner Glen Taylor’s recent willingness to spend for a winner, the Wolves’ abundance of trade assets (Wally Szczerbiak and the unhappy duo of Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell) and Kidd’s close relationship with Kevin Garnett.

Yet don’t discount Denver, and Kidd’s even closer relationship with Kenyon Martin. “Don’t think he hasn’t thought about it,” said one colleague, referring to Nuggets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe.