EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - In the few days in which he's worn his protective apparatus, Paul Pierce has joked about taking his glove to the movies or out to dinner to get to know it better.
Looks as though he'll need to find ways to become familiarized with something else, too: coming off the bench.
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Sliding Pierce out of the starting lineup during the three games since his return from a fractured hand has worked, and Nets coach Jason Kidd sees no reason to change things at the moment. By having him headline the Nets' second unit, Kidd thinks he can help work Pierce into a groove as he finds a comfort level with the glove.
"It helps to have guys like Paul,'' Kidd said after practice Sunday. "This whole team, they have a great attitude. The things of being able to change -- again, injuries have been a part of our season so far. So there've been a lot of different combinations. We've asked guys to do a lot of different things and they've all been up for it.''
Pierce's presence stabilizes a unit that's been in flux all season, giving the Nets (8-15) a steady anchor when Kidd dips into his reserves.
Kidd might have to juggle things rotation-wise again Monday night, given that the Nets might be without Brook Lopez's services when they host the 76ers (7-18). If Lopez, who's listed as questionable, misses a second straight game with a sprained ankle, that again will shift the roles of some and weaken their bench. Particularly if Kidd starts Andray Blatche at center.
At least with Pierce locked into more of a reserve role, the Nets can confidently game-plan to structure things around him no matter what. "It's always good at all times of the game to have a leader on the floor,'' Blatche said. "He comes with the second unit and he's very talkative, he's aggressive. He's holding everybody accountable, and that's what we needed.''
As a super sub in their last three games, Pierce has averaged 8.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 25.7 minutes.
Although he's hit only 37 percent of his shots, he's nailed 40 percent from beyond the arc and is coming off a 12-point performance on 5-for-9 shooting in Friday's loss to the Pistons.
It's been an obvious change in mentality for the 36-year-old, who has to set aside the typical star mentality for the sake of sacrifice. "He's selfless,'' Deron Williams said. "That shows what kind of person he is. He can be a guy that says, 'I'm Paul Pierce, I'm a starter in this league,' you know? Like some guys have done. He's just worried about winning right now, and he's trying to get back healthy and get back into a rhythm, and I think he's doing whatever the team needs right now.''
Notes & quotes: Joe Johnson (illness) and Mirza Teletovic (illness) didn't practice, and Kidd wasn't sure about their availability for Monday night. As for Lopez, Kidd said: "You always go with safety first. So if he can't go, we'll go with the next guys up, and I think we've become accustomed to that. So it's not anything new.''