Lionel Hollins has never been in a situation like this, one in which he has a player whose court time is rationed. But that's how things are with 20-year pro Kevin Garnett, 38.
Garnett sat out Monday night's game against the Mavericks for rest purposes, something he's done on the tail end of back-to-back games on six of eight occasions. Hollins said it's a collective decision between Garnett and trainer Tim Walsh.
Garnett last played on consecutive nights just after Christmas, when the Nets followed up a matinee against the Celtics in Boston with a game against the Pacers. Two of the Nets' most impressive wins of the season -- against the Spurs and Bulls -- came in back-to-backs in which Garnett didn't play.
"I haven't really managed his minutes. They come and tell me,'' Hollins said. "If they say he can't play, I just say, 'OK, next man, come on and let's play.' ''
"I don't try to worry about it. It is different. But it is what it is and you just go play, go coach. For me, I just go coach. I don't worry about it.''
Here's how dramatic the landscape is between the conferences: Entering the night, the Mavs (25-10) were fourth in the West; if they resided in the East, their record would have been good enough to slot them second, one game behind the Hawks.
"There's better players in the West overall,'' Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "Just top to bottom, I think it's just a fact. A lot of Eastern teams are rebuilding right now. When I went to Indiana with [Larry] Bird back in 1997-98, we were laying out a plan to try to win as many games as possible that year to get to the playoffs, and at that time, we said one of the things we had to do was dominate the Western teams, which weren't as good.
"So these things are cyclical and it brings up a lot of conversation and debate about seedings and playoffs and stuff like that, but we have a tradition here and the teams in the East are getting better.''
" . . . The East is getting better and the West is going to have to work hard to stay ahead of where we are.''