EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- If Avery Johnson wasn't initially aware of the back-and-forth that goes on between Nets and Knicks fans, he sure is now.
"I’ve been asked about this quote-unquote rivalry in the last four to five months more than I had my first two years," the Nets' third-year coach said following practice Tuesday at the PNY Center "So, I feel it. I feel it more when we are out and about in Brooklyn and Manhattan. I’m going to restaurants in Manhattan and guys are saying, 'Brooklyn' or they’re saying, 'The Knicks are still going to beat you guys.'
"Or I'm in Brooklyn and the fans are going crazy with their Brooklyn Nets gear on and they are saying, 'We can’t wait to play the Knicks.' So ... we hear it more and that’s something that we’ve got to manage."
The first meeting between the two takes place in neutral territory Wednesday night, when they square off at Nassau Coliseum in the Nets' preseason finale. There's been a lot of offseason talk about which team is better, and that certainly won't be decided in a preseason tilt.
"Nah, it’s just another game," Deron Williams said. "This rivalry with them is getting blown up by the media, but internally, we haven’t talked about it. We haven't said anything about it. We are looking forward to playing these guys. We are looking forward to forming a rivalry. But it’s not there yet."
Still, there is something to be said about putting on a good performance against the very team the Nets will open their season with at home Dec. 1. At the same time, you have to keep a few things under wraps.
"You definitely want to go out and play well, but you don’t want to show them everything," Williams said. "That’s what you are fighting with right now because it’s the team you are opening with. You don’t want to give them all your looks and your wrinkles too quick."
But don't think the Nets are consuming themselves with the Knicks.
"We have a lot more games to play than just against the Knicks to prove ourselves," Williams said. "So, we can’t get caught up in that. We are going to be excited as it is for the first game of the season and the first game at the Barclays Center. So, we‘ll be ready to go no matter what."