NEW YORK — While the Celtics didn’t have much of a rivalry with the Nets when the team was in New Jersey, that has changed since this year’s move to Brooklyn. And things were further intensified Tuesday after two more contentious moments between the clubs in Boston’s 93-76 win at the Barclays Center.
While there was no brawl similar to the one Nov. 28 that cost Rajon Rondo a two-game suspension for punching Kris Humphries, there was some chippiness in the fourth quarter, both sequences involving Nets forward Gerald Wallace.
After being fouled by Kevin Garnett on a putback at the 9:31 mark, Wallace grabbed hold of Garnett’s shorts near the waist and wouldn’t release them. The Celtics’ Courtney Lee and Brooklyn’s Andray Blatche came into the fray, and all four were assessed technical fouls.
“He just grabbed my shorts,” Garnett said. “I kind of held him up or whatever to make sure he didn’t fall and he kept grabbing my shorts.
“I asked him what he was doing and he didn’t respond. I looked at him like, ‘What are you doing?’ and I tried to smack his hand away. It wasn’t nothing. He was jacking my shorts and I didn’t know what he was doing.”
Garnett didn’t believe he should have been assessed a technical but officials have made it a practice to hand them out to each player involved in an altercation — the equivalent to offsetting penalties in football.
“The whole thing was a movie,” Garnett said. “People get caught up in the shenanigans. That play was over with. We were trying to make sure each other was safe and that was it.
“I don’t know where in America you can jack somebody’s pants off. I don’t know what the hell was going on.”
Then with 6:03 left, Wallace was attempting a breakaway layup when he was hugged by Celtics forward Jared Sullinger. The two locked arms, and Sullinger was assessed his first NBA fragrant foul.
There was no concern about a potential Rondo-Humphries faceoff because Humphries is out with a strain in his lower abdomen.
It has been a difficult road for Humphries since the dust-up with Rondo. In 10 December games, he has averaged just 5.8 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 38.3 percent from the field.
He has not played since Dec. 19 and has scored in double figures just once since Dec. 4.
Bradley isn’t ready
The consensus among Celtics coaches and players was that Avery Bradley was close to returning after having surgery on each shoulder and that he may make his return on this four-game road trip. Those hopes were squelched, though, when Bradley was left back in Boston for the next week to work with strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo.
“He’s just not ready,” said coach Doc Rivers. “Physically he’s ready as far as his shoulder looks like it’s strong enough, and honestly we need him and we could use him, but I just don’t feel comfortable.
“He’s been out for six months. He’s really had 2½ practices. I just didn’t feel comfortable.”
Rivers said Bradley should return Jan. 2 against the Grizzlies, his original projected date.
As a three-time Southeastern Conference Player of the Year at Mississippi State, Jarvis Varnado believed his road to the NBA would be a little easier. Still, he sat on the visiting bench at Barclays Center after a pregame workout, soaking it all in.
Before Tuesday, Varnado had never worn an NBA uniform during a regular-season game, having only an injury-plagued preseason stint with the Miami Heat to show for the past two years. He made his NBA debut with Boston against the Nets, recording a steal in 62 seconds of action.
“It was a great Christmas present being called up,” said Varnado. “I’m really excited to be with a traditional franchise like the Celtics and just looking to play hard on the defensive end.
“The last [two years] were real, real tough, but I always had a dream that I would be in the NBA one day. I’m living my dream.”
The 6-foot-9-inch Varnado averaged 14 points, 10 rebounds, and 3.9 blocked shots in 10 games with the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBADL after being waived by the Heat during preseason. He was originally a Miami draft pick (41st overall) in 2010.
The Celtics desperately need depth at the center position with Chris Wilcox out at least three weeks with a sprained ligament in his right thumb. Rivers said the Celtics had 15 players in for a workout Sunday night and were impressed with Varnado.
The Celtics donned yet another alternate uniform, premiering the Christmas Day green-on-green jerseys. The Celtics have sported their share of alternative jerseys since the Big Three era began, including the St. Patrick’s Day jerseys trimmed in gold and the green-and-black uniforms they have worn occasionally this season.
Rondo doesn’t particularly care for the Celtics’ traditional uniforms but liked the Christmas variation.
“These are the best ones, the green on green, and the St. Patrick’s,” he said. “I just don’t like the original. It’s time to change it up.”
12 wins of Christmas
The Celtics improved to 12-17 on Christmas Day; 28 of those 29 games have been played away from Boston . . . Jason Terry bounced back from a 1-for-15 performance Friday against Milwaukee, hitting 4 of 7 shots, inculding three 3-pointers . . . Rivers said Leandro Barbosa is still expected to rejoin the team for Thursday’s game against the Clippers . . . After being outrebounded, 97-84, in the previous two meetings with the Nets, the Celtics won this battle, 41-36.Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe