Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept.
MIAMI - OK, I admit it: I might have been a teensy bit remiss in my Nets-watching duties during the regular season, when they frequently took a backseat to the NFL, the Knicks, "House Hunters" and the Weather Channel.
But here we are eight full games into my artisanal Brooklyn basketball playoff experience and I still have no clear idea what Jason Kidd will do with his players and when he will do it.
That is not necessarily a bad thing, and it has gotten him this far. Plus he knows more about basketball than me, or you.
But he continues to walk a fine line between embracing his many options and frustrating and / or confusing his players.
Take this stat, please: Two minutes into the second quarter of Game 1 against the Heat Tuesday, he had used 11 players. Eleven! In less than 14 minutes!
In Game 5 against the Raptors, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce didn't play in the fourth quarter because the bench played well. In Game 1 against the Heat, Garnett played 1:16 of the fourth, and Pierce didn't play at all again in the fourth.
In the two games between, the two Hall of Famers-to-be made important contributions, especially in the final 6.2 seconds of Game 7 in Toronto.
Two things about all that: First, give Kidd credit for fashioning this mix-and-match approach into a playoff berth and first-round victory, no small feat for this franchise. Second, give him credit for somehow avoiding having his players complain about the rotation publicly. So far.
It happened again after the blowout loss Tuesday. Maybe it helps that he is such a recently retired star his players give him the benefit of the doubt, but whatever the reason, that is what they are doing.
Pierce and Garnett did not make themselves available to reporters yesterday, but here is what three starters who never got back in the game said after Game 1:
Pierce: "Kidd's making the decisions. We're sticking with him all the way through. We're trusting him."
Garnett: "Jason Kidd told me to sub for Mason, and then he subbed me out. Following directions, dawg. Following directions."
Deron Williams: "Of course we'd love to get back out there but that was coach's decision to go with the group he had."
Hey, I said they did not complain publicly; I never said they were thrilled with the idea.
When I asked Kidd before practice Wednesday whether he has to speak to players about the unpredictable rotation or whether he trusts them to trust him, he said it was the latter.
"Well, you asked the question and you answered the question," he said. "We all trust one another. That's what this team is all about. That's why we're a team. It's not an individual. It's not just a head coach, not just a 19-year player.
"We're the Brooklyn Nets and that's what we stand for, trusting one another. When things are tough or things are good we continue to rely on one another. That's what makes us a special group."
Sounds good, but Kidd is in a delicate spot. This is the strategy that got him here, and it makes sense to continue being careful with minutes for a creaky roster, especially with no more of those three-day breaks they enjoyed in the first round.
But this is the playoffs, and LeBron James won't be taking many breaks. (His 36 minutes in Game 1 were more than any Net logged, even though the result was a foregone conclusion for most of the fourth quarter.)
Most players like to have an idea what to expect of their workday before they punch the clock. And most coaches do like a shorter bench in the playoffs.
Kidd actually watched this team play all season, all but two of the games in person. So like his star players I defer to his judgment -- to a point. But 11 guys in 14 minutes? That's a rotation all right, but one that risks making everyone dizzy.