The concern regarding Jason Kidd's back continues to grow.

Kidd started last night, played the first 5:24 and was yanked for J.R. Smith. Kidd never saw the court again and it's unclear when he will again.

Woodson rested Kidd the final three quarters in last night's 106-104 conquest of the Hawks, just as he did in Philadelphia on Saturday. During the Sixers game, Kidd returned to the locker room in the fourth quarter for treatment. He had two assists last night, but didn't take a shot.

Kidd, who missed four games in November, suffered from back spasms in Boston on Thursday. Kidd was not available to the media after last night's game.

"He's fine, I just decided to rest him,'' Woodson claimed. "I beat Jason Kidd up, and he is a bigger part of this than you'd ever imagine. This is a marathon — one game isn't going to determine anything. I'm going to need him for the long haul.''

Carmelo Anthony said the light travel schedule ahead will be good for Kidd as the Knicks play four more games at home this week.

* J.R. Smith hit rock bottom Saturday in Philadelphia with his 0-for-8 showing, and before last night's game, Woodson said he wanted Smith to spend more time on his shot in practice. Smith recovered nicely as he scored 18 points, making 7 of 15 baskets, though just 1 of 5 from 3-point land, and spent several minutes outside the locker room talking to his friend, Rev. Jesse Jackson.

"I thought J.R. came out of it a little bit tonight,'' Woodson said.

A couple of weeks ago, Smith was surging, and even suggested he should be considered for the All-Star team because of the dearth of shooting guards in the East; he had a streak of seven straight games of 18-plus points. But then he started crashing, and entering last night was shooting 19 of 69 in his previous five games — 27.5 percent — and 30 percent in his previous eight games. His shooting percentage had slipped under 40 percent, to 39.5.

"He's got to put more time in and work his way through it,'' Woodson said.