Coach Mike Woodson's fears of running Jason Kidd into the ground were well-founded. The venerable guard was scratched before the Knicks' 113-97 victory over the Magic Wednesday night because of a sore lower back, three days after being limited to just five minutes against Atlanta.

"When you lose Raymond [Felton], you're forced to play Pablo [Prigioni] and Kidd — and mainly Kidd — a lot of minutes," Woodson said. "We wanted to save those minutes for Kidd as we made the final run, but it just didn't work out that way.

"Kidd has been a trouper about it, in terms of giving us what he's got.''

Kidd apparently gave too much — or more to the point, perhaps the Knicks asked too much of the 39-year-old who already had missed four games earlier in the season with a balky back. Woodson was hopeful that with some rest, Kidd would be back to face the Bucks Friday.

"He's sore. We're going to rest him and see how he feels [Thursday], and he'll probably play Friday,'' Woodson said. "No [tests]. He's just sore. He's logged a lot of minutes since Raymond had gone down. Now, Raymond's back. We can be a little more cautious I think. If he says he's a little sore, then I've got to be open-minded to that, rest him and welcome him back when he's ready to come back.''

Felton's broken pinky forced the Knicks into playing Kidd 30.4 minutes per game going into last weekend, far more than they had intended. But he logged just 15 minutes Saturday in Philadelphia, and just five Sunday against the Hawks, sitting out the entire second half and telling Woodson he needed a break.

"The ideal as to play him between 20 and 25 minutes per game, then there'd be some nights where he's the guy, you play him down the stretch and he might sneak up to 30,'' Woodson said. "But we went through a stretch, that while time when Raymond was out, [Kidd] was averaging 30 minutes a ballgame. That's a bit much.