Hollins: KG 'earned the right to start'

NEW YORK -- Lionel Hollins says Kevin Garnett will start at power forward and play more than 15 minutes per game if healthy for the Brooklyn Nets.

"There is nobody in the gym that I would put in his place," Hollins said at Deron Williams' Celebrity Dodge Barrage event at Basketball City. "He has earned the right to have that opportunity to be the starter from Day One. Somebody has to knock him out, it's got to be like a heavyweight fight. I don't really see that happening."

Hollins said he got to sit down with Garnett after the forward decided to return for a 20th season with the Nets. This is his final season under contract with Brooklyn worth $12 million.

Garnett spent the early part of the offseason laying low in California. It was a busy and dramatic offseason for the Nets with the departure of Jason Kidd and Paul Pierce. Garnett waived his no-trade clause last summer to accept a deal to the Nets from Boston to join Kidd in Brooklyn and continue playing alongside Pierce.

Garnett recently has been working out with Nets teammates in New Jersey.

"I understood why he wasn't around and why he wasn't communicating," Hollins said of Garnett remaining mum earlier in the summer. "When you get to this stage and have to make big life-changing decisions, it should be alone and with your family... The decision has to be his. He is a Hall of Fame player and he deserves Hall of Fame respect."

"I didn't even ask him (how close he was to retiring)," Hollins added. "It doesn't really matter. You're pregnant or you're not pregnant. He looks good... I would assume that if he decided to come back and if in fact it is his last year, he would want to make it his best."

Last season in his first year as a Net, Garnett played in 54 games, averaging a career-low 6.5 points and 20.5 minutes a game. He grabbed 6.6 rebounds a game as former head coach Kidd tried to keep Garnett's minutes down to keep him fresh for the postseason.

Garnett, who missed 19 games last season with a back injury, won't see his playing time significantly reduced if healthy according to his new coach.

"If he's healthy, and producing, he's going to play," Hollins said. "How many minutes? I don't know. But he is not going to play 15 or 16 minutes. I can guarantee you that. If he is playing and starting, he is going to be out there."

Hollins said the Nets' biggest issue entering the season is health. Williams and Brook Lopez are both coming off surgeries from last season. Williams said his surgically-repaired ankles are ready to go for the start of training camp.

"Last year was tough, I missed pretty much all of training camp, most of the preseason," said Williams, who was joined by teammates Mason Plumlee, Jarrett Jack, Andrei Kirilenko and Sergey Karasev at his charity event. "I practiced one time, played nine minutes in a preseason game and was thrown into the fire. I was probably about 60-70 percent."

"It is definitely different this year," he added. "I think it's great that I will be able to participate in training camp and I am practicing with the guys right now."