Veteran forward Garnett must adhere to rookie coach's plan
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Jason Kidd knows exactly how Kevin Garnett is feeling.
Last season, the swan song campaign of his 19-year Hall of Fame worthy career, the legendary point guard averaged the least minutes, scored the fewest points and registered the lowest assist total since entering the NBA as a fresh-faced rookie from the University of California in 1994.
Known for his strong leadership skills, grace under pressure and unsurpassed genius with the ball in his hands, Kidd was relegated to elongated stretches on the bench as Knicks coach Mike Woodson tried to keep his 40-year-old legs fit and ready for New York's late-season push toward a championship.
To his credit, Kidd didn’t complain. He didn’t pout. He even served as a mentor to those players who saw more action than himself.
And for the record, he also had the worst stretch of his brilliant career, missing 17 consecutive shots as the Knicks were bounced in the second round of the playoffs by Indiana.
Garnett, who is entering his 19th season as one of the league's most dominant power forwards, must now heed his rookie coach's direction in not overextending himself during the upcoming 82-game grind of an NBA season.
That means Garnett will now play fewer minutes, take an occasional night off on the back end of consecutive games and sit out a few meaningless preseason contests.
The All-Star player known as “The Big Ticket” did just that Tuesday night, when the Nets edged his former team, the Boston Celtics, 82-80, without him before a crowd of 15,554 at the Barclays Center.
"I was just in that seat," Kidd said after admitting that Garnett wasn't overcome with joy at the prospect of playing a somewhat limited role in the Nets' drive toward what they hope will be the franchise's first NBA title.
"I’m going to need him to sit out. Yes, he doesn’t want to. ... There’s always going to be times of agreement or disagreement. We have to find what makes sense.”
Garnett watched as Andray Blatche started in his place against the visiting Celtics, registering 14 points, ripping down six rebounds, picking up three steals and blocking a shot in 24 effective minutes.
But the 37-year-old veteran, who is as fiery a competitor as the sport has seen over the past two decades, remained steadfast in his belief that he can best help his teammates on the hardwood, rather than off it.
“I just feel like every day that you have to better your craft every chance we come in here and work as a group, I’d like be a part of that,” said Garnett, who has yet to log more than 15 minutes in any of his first three preseason outings as a Net.
“It wasn’t my decision, so that’s where I’m going to leave that. I am trying to be as positive as I can be.”
Despite his displeasure with the situation, Garnett is doing his best to go along to get along.
At least for now.
"I’m trusting Jason in what he has in store for myself," he added. "But I’m very funny about coming in, getting my work in and making sure I’m sharp.”
The small rift, the first of Kidd's rookie season as head coach, could grow wider during the regular season if Garnett's play suffers as a result of not getting his regular work in.
But for now, the two are doing their best to quell any hint of a budding controversy.
“He’s seen the plan,” said Kidd. "This makes sense to give him the night off."
It will continue to make sense only as long as Garnett produces and the Nets win this season.
Any scenario varying from that one will result in Kidd's biggest challenge as a first-year coach, convincing an older, very accomplished player that he best serves the team by playing less.
Fortunately for Kidd, it's not an unfamiliar scenario.
But he has to be hoping, praying even, that Garnett’s finish to this campaign is much stronger than his final few days in uniform.
Hoop du Jour: The Nets on Tuesday requested waivers on G Marko Jaric, who was signed to the training camp roster on Sept. 30. Jaric appeared in two preseason games, totaling three points and seven assists. The move cuts the Nets' roster down to 18, leaving three more cuts to be made before the regular-season opener Oct. 30 in Cleveland. ... F Paul Pierce, making his first appearance against the Celtics after a 15-year career in Boston, played a team-high 27:20 Tuesday night. He scored just four points on 1-of-6 shooting, but did grab 10 rebounds and hand out five assists. "It was a little weird looking over and seeing all the green uniforms," Pierce admitted. "I'm used to lining up in the green and white for so long." ... G Deron Williams remained sidelined with a right-ankle injury that he insists won't keep him from being ready for the Cavaliers in two weeks. ... F Andrei Kirilenko also sat out Tuesday with back spasms and G Jason Terry, who came to the Nets with Garnett and Pierce in the blockbuster draft-day trade back in June, continued to nurse his surgically repaired left knee. ... The Nets will host the Heat and officially retire Kidd's No. 5 jersey Thursday night at Barclays Center.