The Brooklyn Nets are in Michigan to take on the Detroit Pistons, but they’ll be without one of their stars: center Kevin Garnett. Coach Jason Kidd has elected to rest Garnett on the second half of the back-to-back, a continuation of his original plan.
Garnett only played a few ticks over eighteen minutes Thursday night, below his season average of 21.7. Though you have to factor in the matchup — the brutish Tiago Splitter is no easy task for a slender center like Garnett — Garnett only played a few bruising post plays against Splitter, and you have to imagine he wants to play on mostly rested legs. Garnett has been vocal about his desire to play as much as possible while willing to compromise all season. He left Thursday’s post-game interview before being asked about resting today.
The Pistons have out-rebounded the Nets 87-73 in their two games this season — both Nets losses. Garnett didn’t play much in either game (18 and 22 minutes), but led the team in total rebound percentage in both games. The Pistons are the anti-Nets; instead of going smaller and longer, the Pistons play a weird big lineup, with the 6’9″ Josh Smith, 6’10” Greg Monroe, and 7’1″ Andre Drummond on their frontline.
Garnett is a one-man wrecking crew on the glass. He’s used his length and frame effectively to carve space near the basket defensively, and he’s long enough to grab the ball as soon as it reaches the space where opponents might fight for it. Garnett leads the NBA in defensive rebound percentage, gobbling up 31.7 percent of all available defensive rebounds when he’s on the floor. Since the new year, the Nets have grabbed 51.7 percent of all rebounds with Garnett on the floor. When he’s benched? 45.7 percent. The only regular rotation player with a bigger drop is Andrei Kirilenko.
With Garnett out, the Nets will likely give more playing time to energetic rookie Mason Plumlee and rebounding machine Reggie Evans. Though Evans may buoy the rebounding issues, he has drawn ire from fans this season for his offensive struggles. Conversely, Plumlee has shown flashes of excitement with dunks, but averages just 6.9 rebounds per 36 minutes, one of the lowest marks among centers in the league.
Garnett would’ve struggled with Drummond’s length, but he’s also Brooklyn’s best shot at containing him, particularly with their small lineup. The Nets will rely on the enigmatic Blatche to cover Drummond instead, no easy task, and then Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce to tangle with Smith and Monroe.