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Follow the Nets' return to New York with Newsday's Rod Boone.

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Rivers, Pierce praise Nets' makeover

Boston Celtics' Paul Pierce (34) drives against Brooklyn

Boston Celtics' Paul Pierce (34) drives against Brooklyn Nets' Reggie Evans (30) as Josh Childress watches from behind during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game in Boston, Tuesday Oct. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) (Credit: AP Photo Elise Amendola)

Doc Rivers knows a thing or two about pro basketball in this city, given his two-year stint with the Knicks during the 1990s.

Even he could never imagine in his wildest dreams that the Nets would not only move into the city, but become this chic team that's garnering lots of attention.

"No, I didn’t," the Celtics coach said before tonight's game when I asked him what he thought of the new-look Nets. "I never thought of it. When you are with the Knicks, you didn’t even know there was another team, honestly. I think this is terrific. I’ve been in the league a long time and I’ve never seen a team rebrand itself in six months.

"It’s like – it is -- this is a whole new franchise. It feels like they just plucked this team out of the space, and all of the sudden they’ve got a hell of a team in our division that wears black uniforms. It’s unbelievable. It's terrific, though. I think it’s great.

"I don’t appreciate it being in our division and stuff, but I do. I don’t know if they could’ve done anything better. This is terrific."

Paul Pierce also threw some props the Nets' way.

"I think they really did a good job at rehabbing their team," he said, "bringing in some good guys with experience like Joe [Johnson]. To go along with what they’ve re-signed in Deron [Williams], they really are going to be a team to be reckoned with in the East."

Pierce said he expects the Celtics to knock heads with the Nets all season, not to mention other teams in the stacked Atlantic Division.

"It will be good battles," he said. "Not only them, the Knicks, Philadelphia. The division has definitely beefed up this year."

I asked Pierce if he thinks the division is as good as he's ever seen it.

"Yeah, probably so, top to bottom," he said. "Other than last year, we’ve pretty much ran away with the division. It’s probably going to be tough for us to do that this year."

At least tonight, the Nets will get a chance to see how they stack up against the Celtics after Avery Johnson rested his starters in Tuesday's 97-96 preseason victory over Boston at the TD Garden.

"We’d rather play the other guys if we can," Rivers cracked. "But the starters, the they are going to play eventually.  They are going to be really good. Tonight, for an exbihition game, it should be a decent game. We are going to play our starters a lot. They’ll probably play theirs. It's rare that you get this.

"So, hopefully it’s a pretty good game."

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