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Countdown: It's a sprint, not a marathon

DALLAS -- Finally, the old sports cliche' about the season being a marathon, not a sprint, is turned on its head. Starting on Christmas Day, the NBA gets a shotgun start and the Dallas Mavericks begin 66 games in 123 days.

Dirk Nowitzki said it's going to feel like 66 games in 67 days. Jason Kidd said you don't need to even look at the schedule; you just got to know where you're going.

It will be a whirlwind for sure, and Kidd, who will turn 39 during a particularly brutal stretch in March, will be most affected by the sprint to the April 26 regular-season finish line, which is followed by the postseason two days later. Anyone who saw Kidd play during the final month of last season saw a tired, dragging player. We know Kidd must be fresh entering the playoffs for the Mavs to stand a chance.

We also know that keeping Kidd as spry as possible begins right now during training camp.

"We're not going to kill him in training camp," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "We're going to make sure we have him for 66 games."

Dallas has good depth at shooting guard and both forward spots, and they wouldn't mind adding another serviceable center. As of Monday night, the Mavs addressed a gaping hole behind Kidd by signing Delonte West, 28, to a one-year deal. Otherwise, Dallas was looking at likely forcing Jason Terry to split time between the guard spots because Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones just haven't developed yet as reliable point guards for a team gunning for a repeat.

And to repeat, Kidd must be well-rested by the time April 28 rolls around. That's the day the playoffs start.

Kidd averaged about 36 minutes per game two seasons ago and was a mess in the first-round loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Carlisle recognized that and was able to reduce Kidd's minutes to about 33 per game last season. The plan this season is to get him down to 30 or fewer.

With J.J. Barea now playing in Minnesota, ensuring that the future Hall of Famer gets the rest he needs is in the hands of Delonte West.