Kevin Garnett: Nets will be strong

NEW YORK -- The Nets franchise hasn't received many compliments over the years. But now that the team is in Brooklyn and hoping to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006-07, others are taking notice.

"With Joe Johnson and with Deron [Williams] and everybody, they're going to be a force to be reckoned with," Boston's Kevin Garnett said after the Nets beat the Celtics 97-96 in the preseason Tuesday night. "They're nothing like last year. They're going to be strong."

Told of Garnett's comment, Williams said, "It means a lot -- especially coming from KG given all he's done in this league. At the same time, we've gotta go out there and play basketball, nothing's gonna be given to us.

"We have what I feel is a really good team on paper. We're really deep but we have to come together and jell as a team -- which I think we're heading in the right direction -- but you never know until you get games under your belt and get into the regular season."

Added Celtics coach Doc Rivers, "It's remarkable what they've done here."

The Celtics have won the Atlantic Division the past five seasons, but the Nets, with an improved roster, are hoping to end that streak.

"I think they've improved a lot with the ownership, Jay-Z doing concerts here. I think they've done a complete 180," said Celtics guard Courtney Lee, who was on the New Jersey team that went 12-70 three seasons ago. "I was in the Meadowlands and the Izod Center, and this is totally different."

The Nets and Celtics play each other in a nationally televised preseason game on Thursday night.

Mike Mazzeo is a frequent contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.