EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - So who are the real Brooklyn Nets? Are they the team that beat Miami in the second game of the season? Or are they the one that was blown out by Orlando two days later?
The Nets believe they can contend for a top seed in the Eastern Conference and play with the best teams in the league. The next two days should reveal which direction this collection of All-Stars is headed. It will be the first time this season the Nets play back-to-back games: at Washington Friday night and hosting Indiana Saturday.
Back-to-back games, you may recall, became a topic of discussion between 15- time All-Star forward Kevin Garnett and coach Jason Kidd in the preseason. Kidd suggested to the 37-year-old that he might want to rest in the second game of back-to-backs, but Garnett balked. No firm decision was reached, so it will be interesting to see what Kidd does over the next couple of days.
Kidd refused to tip his hand Thursday when asked what his plans were, deftly sidestepping repeated questions. It might make more sense to rest Garnett against Washington so he would be available to face a physical Pacers team that is 5-0. Kidd, however, said he expects Garnett to be available to play Friday night in Washington.
"I'm only going to talk about Washington," Kidd said. "I wouldn't see why he wouldn't play, and we're only going to talk about our next opponent."
The Nets have 20 sets of back-to-back games this season. Garnett was not available to talk Thursday, but he said in preseason that his conversation with Kidd about playing in those situations "didn't go very well."
Garnett has not always looked completely comfortable in his new surroundings. He is still looking for his first double-digit scoring game as a Net and is averaging only 22 minutes a game, almost eight fewer than last season with the Celtics.
The Nets, unlike Boston, have the depth to give Garnett some rest. And the team is hoping that will pay off later in the season.
"Our older guys are playing less minutes, which means we should be fresher," Jason Terry said. "This is not a sprint, it's a long marathon . . . You have to look at what we've assembled here. We have the pieces, and I think guys understand that."