BOSTON - Joe Johnson had his virtual pompons in hand Wednesday night, spending the game planted on the Nets' bench and enjoying his scheduled day of rest.
Deron Williams also was given some rest, left at home so his surgically repaired ankles could have one final break before the intensity is cranked up a few notches.
As the Nets wrapped up their preseason against the Celtics at TD Garden and start looking ahead to beginning true preparations for the regular season, health once again is a top priority. Coach Lionel Hollins wasn't about to chance anything with the Nets' season opener here in Beantown on the horizon in six days, figuring he'd seen enough from Williams, Johnson and the other veterans.
Brook Lopez is still expected to be sidelined for the better part of this next week and Kevin Garnett continues to battle a stomach virus, unable to practice since the Nets returned from China. Hollins understands the toll an 82-game season can have, and he's doing everything he can to look out for their well-being in his first season in Brooklyn.
"The most important thing is to have health," Hollins said. "I would hate to go into the regular season with three or four guys not able to play. So having those guys sit out, I know what they are going to do when we get to the regular season. And we have a week of practice just to fine-tune everything that we are trying to do and add what we are going to add. So, it's important to let them sit out and get ready for the regular season."
After all the man-games the Nets lost because of injuries last season, it's not hard to see why. Between Lopez's season-ending broken foot, Williams' troublesome ankles and the back spasms experienced by Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko, the quartet missed a combined 140 games. Last thing they want is a repeat performance.
"Obviously the season, it has started, but the real deal hasn't started yet," Johnson said. "But right now, we just need to go to the first game of the season with guys as healthy as possible. And at this point, we are all still learning. We are not going to get everything down throughout training camp and preseason. So we are going to have to learn on the fly as we've done the previous two years I was here. As the season goes on, I think we will get better."
That's Hollins' hope. He knows it's going to take a while for them to work out the kinks.
"It's not just going to happen when we play Boston next week," Hollins said. "It's a process that we go through, and hopefully by January, February we are the team that we want to be."