Nets covet Celtics' 'nastiness,' 'swagger'

Prior to their second matchup of the preseason, Boston Celtics veteran Kevin Garnett referred to the Brooklyn Nets as “a force to be reckoned with.”

After the Celtics routed the Nets, 115-85, at Barclays Center two days later, coach Avery Johnson referred to KG’s praise as “a straight setup,” adding that the Celtics had “an agenda” against Brooklyn -- an agenda they carried out with seemingly relative ease.

On Thursday night, the two teams will meet for the first time in the regular season at the $1 billion arena on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush. And the Nets haven’t forgotten what happened on Oct. 18.

“We didn’t play well against them at home. They came in with a different agenda in our preseason game,” Johnson said after Wednesday’s practice. “I think we’ll have a little bit of a different agenda tomorrow. We’re a better team and hopefully it’ll show on the floor.”

Added point guard Deron Williams: “I think they’re a team that’s built that way (to have agendas in big games) with KG being their leader. They’ve probably seen us on ‘The Association’ and things like that. It’s probably a game they have circled, so we have to be ready to play.”

The Celtics have won the Atlantic Division for five straight seasons. Despite the departure of Ray Allen, Boston restocked the offseason, adding Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and a now-healthy Jeff Green to their star-studded core of KG, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. They’ll take a 4-3 record into Wednesday night’s game against the Utah Jazz.

“It’ll be good to see how we match up against a team that has dominated this division for the last five years,” Johnson said.

The Nets have a new arena, a new logo, a new revamped roster and are trying to forge a new identity. And one day, they’re hoping to have the type of consistent success that the Celtics have had for decades.

But until then, Johnson said, this isn’t exactly a rivalry.

“For us, until we become a perennial playoff team that has had knock down-drag out playoff fights with teams, then I think it’s gonna become more and more of a rivalry,” Johnson said. “But again, this will be a good way to start a good regular-season 'rivalry' with a team that knows what they’re doing.

“They have a lot of confidence and they have a swagger. They have a nastiness and a swagger about them that I actually like -- and all the good teams that I’ve been associated with have it. And I’m trying to get us to get one on a consistent basis: home or road.”

The Nets failed their first big test of the 2012-13 campaign, losing 103-73 to the Miami Heat on Nov. 7. It’s still early, but they don’t want to go 0-for-2.

“It’s a big game for us,” D-Will said. “The last couple (wins) have been against what you would call non-playoff teams (Orlando and Cleveland) -- or what most people would think are non-playoff teams -- so it’s a good test for us after the way they came out and beat us in the last TNT game of the preseason. Hopefully we’ll come out with a better focus (because we) know that they are gonna come very aggressive this game.”