The beauty of Jason Kidd, in part, was even in the January of his career, even at the start, he understood the game well enough that he never let things bother him that would send other players into month-long funks. Points? Shooting percentage? Vertical leap?

Even then he was wise enough to know what really matters.

Which means that now, in the December of that brilliant career, he cares about those things even less.

“I didn’t come into this league as a scorer,” he said with that wry grin last night, maybe half an hour after helping the Knicks to their third straight victory, a 96-88 grind against the Wizards. “And it doesn’t look like I’m going out that way, either.”

It’s good to be the king, and it’s better to be the accomplished elder statesman sometimes, too. Mike Woodson finally did what he had threatened to do for weeks, shaking up his starting lineup, moving Kidd to the bench, asking him to concentrate on being more of a point guard, more of a set-up man, more of a distributor.

“All I wanted,” Woodson said, “is for him to be the player he’s been, do the things he’s done his whole career.”

Kidd’s career has never been completely defined by the box score, despite his 107 career triple-doubles, and his game has always been one best appreciated through the eyes rather than the prism of a calculator. At the end of Kidd’s greatest games, even in his prime, it wasn’t unusual to look at a score sheet and wonder if you’d actually seen the same game as the statisticians.

“He plays basketball like jazz,” his old coach, Byron Scott, once said, and if Kidd doesn’t always hit all the high notes any more now that he’s 21 days shy of his 40th birthday, there are nights he can still offer a riff or two that conjures a memory or three.