HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — New Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd told the New York Daily News last month that he might not play Kevin Garnett in both ends of back-to-back sets this season.
“We’ve talked about it that there’s going to be (minutes restrictions). When you look at KG, probably no back-to-backs for him,” Kidd said Friday following press conference to announce the renovation of Nassau Coliseum. “Those are just topics we’re talking about, throwing around to keep these guy’s minutes down because we are deep. …you want to be fresh going into the playoffs.”
|Most minutes played, NBA history|
KG is 37 years old, will be playing his 19th season, and ranks sixth all-time in minutes played. That makes this a logical plan, and it’s also easy to understand why Kidd, in particular, is concerned about the minutes of his oldest vet.
Just last season, Kidd — who ranks third all-time in minutes — was playing his 19th season, appeared in 88 of the Knicks’ 94 games. He clearly ran out of gas in the playoffs, missing the final 18 shots of his career. His 3-point shooting helped the Knicks win 18 of their first 23 games and his leadership was critical throughout, but his team needed him to make a shot or two in the conference semifinals and he came up empty.
The Nets would rather win 50 games and have Garnett fresh for the playoffs than win 57 and have him running on fumes when they face the Heat, Pacers or Bulls in a series. The Nets’ best chance at a championship is probably this season, so extra precautions should certainly be taken.
That’s why the addition of Andrei Kirilenko — who gives the Nets a quality starter when Garnett gets a night off — was so important. Though Garnett will be the most critical component to the Nets’ defense, this team is much deeper than the Celtics of the last couple of seasons, who suffered a huge defensive drop-off whenever KG rested.
Garnett’s mobility and athleticism has declined over the last few years. But his numbers from last season make it clear that he had no problem handling back-to-backs.
Over the last two seasons, KG played both ends of 35 back-to-backs (18 in ’11-12 and 17 last season). And in those 70 games, he shot better and got to the line more often in the second night. And he was only a slightly better rebounder on the first night.
Garnett in back-to-backs, last two seasons
TS% = PTS / (2 * (FGA + (0.44*FTA)))
FTA Rate = FTA/FGA
REB% = Percentage of available rebounds obtained
KG doesn’t seem to have a problem with playing two straight nights. But this is about the long term and how he plays in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, not how he plays in Toronto on Jan. 11.
In playing those 17 back-to-backs last season, Garnett suffered a drop-off after the All-Star break. But he played pretty well in last season’s playoffs. In fact, he averaged almost 14 rebounds per game in the Celtics’ first-round series against the Knicks, grabbing more than a third of the available defensive rebounds when he was on the floor.
Garnett’s usage rate was down in that series, and although he’s still a great defender, there were times when the Knicks made him look his age …
KG is absolutely going to help the Nets defensively. You will find more examples of him playing great pick-and-roll defense than you will of him getting beat. And it should be noted that all the above plays took place toward the end of the first half in which he played the most minutes all season. Garnett averaged just over 14 first-half minutes in his 74 (total) games last season, but played 21:29 in the first half of Game 5.
In addition to giving Garnett nights off, Kidd will also have to manage his minutes in-game. Though his free throw rate and rebounding improved, KG’s shooting declined after he played 20 minutes last season.
|Min. played in game||MIN||FGM||FGA||FG%||PTS/48||TS%||FTA Rate||OREB%||DREB%||REB%|
It will be a interesting balancing act for Kidd.
Though the regular season isn’t the priority, seeding is often critical. Brooklyn got beat in a Game 7 at home in May, but home teams have still won about 80 percent of all Game 7s. With how good each of the best teams in the Eastern Conference could be, we could certainly see more Game 7s next Spring. And a few games in the standings might be the difference between finishing first and finishing fifth.
More than anything, the Nets need to get better defensively and Garnett is the best defensive player of the last decade. But as we saw in Boston the last few seasons, he needs to be on the floor to make an impact. While the Celtics’ defense suffered when he stepped off the floor, it didn’t if he was on the floor and had logged big minutes. In fact, their DefRtg (points allowed per 100 possessions) was better when KG was on the floor and had played at least 20 minutes (95.7) than when he had yet to play 20 (96.4).