Big picture: Keeping KG and Pierce healthy

NEW YORK –- Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce couldn’t stop talking about the championship expectations surrounding the Nets.

But when the question was asked about how many minutes the two former Celtics will play this regular season, both looked to their new coach to give an answer.

“You got to talk to the guy to the right of us,” Garnett said, turning his head toward Jason Kidd, seated to his side on the dais.

Kidd, 40, has much to learn on the job this season. But Kidd said there’s one advantage he has after going from veteran player to rookie coach when it comes to coaching Garnett and Pierce.

“The best example is I just sat in that seat for these young guys,” Kidd said. “Being able to keep their minutes down and understand the big picture.

“[General manager] Billy [King] has put together a roster that is deep so these guys don’t have to play 35 to 38 minutes a night,” Kidd added. “My job is to watch the clock and keep these guys’ minutes down.”

Garnett, 37, averaged 29.7 minutes per game last season with the Celtics -- his lowest average since his rookie season in 1995-96. Pierce played a career-low average of 33.4 minutes last season. Pierce, who will turn 36 in October, was quick to remind everyone he is not as old as some may think.

"I’m 35," Pierce said when a reporter asked about how his minutes will be monitored now that he's older. "There are 50-year-olds and 60-year-olds [here at the news conference]."

Doc Rivers constantly had to walk the fine line between wanting to win on a nightly basis and keeping his veteran stars happy but fresh for the postseason. The Nets, though, have some flexibility. They can rely more on younger stars like Deron Williams and Brook Lopez to carry more of the load.

They have bigs like Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans and Mason Plumlee to come off the bench, and Andrei Kirilenko can also provide some of the defense that Garnett delivers. Kirilenko also can start in place of Pierce if Kidd chooses to rest Pierce on a given night as well.

“In doing that, maybe they won’t play one night,” Kidd said of Pierce’s and Garnett’s minutes. “We will talk about that as the summer goes on. The bigger picture is for these guys to be healthy going into the playoffs.”

Kidd will rely on his own experience last season when it comes to monitoring his veterans’ minutes. He averaged 26.9 minutes last season. But he played heavier minutes in December, averaging 32.8 minutes in 14 games that month. He saw a steep decline in his production later in the season and failed to score a point in his final 10 playoff games.

“Who better to know what it takes and what they go through,” Kidd said. “They can always come to me and say we need a break, but the way we got it hopefully planned out, that it is something we can handle and maintain through a season that the guys are getting the minutes that we think they should get.”