The Boston Celtics are in no position to look beyond Sunday’s Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, but that doesn’t mean we can’t.
The Los Angeles Lakers punched their pass to the NBA Finals on Saturday night. All that stands between the Celtics and Lakers renewing their Finals rivalry — one decade since the last meeting — is Boston winning two more games to cap a rally from a 3-1 deficit.
It probably doesn’t matter to Boston players that the Lakers are waiting. To them, the opponent is rather inconsequential; these Celtics just want to be a part of that championship stage. But, for Boston fans, there’s always a little extra motivation when the purple and gold are on the opposite side.
Forget the banners, the Lakers will be competing for their 17th title and Celtics fans will yell and scream until they're blue in the face about how many of those were Minnesota based. A Celtics-Lakers finals is particularly intriguing to us because these were two storied franchises that, just a few years ago, were starting rebuilds at similar times.
Buoyed by the haul from the Brooklyn Nets deal, Boston utilized a combination of drafting and relentless roster tinkering to stay afloat.
The Celtics were back in the playoffs after only a one-year absence in 2014. Still, with three appearances in the East finals in the past four years, the team is still looking to get over that hump and play for another banner.
While the Celtics hit on their young talent at the top of the draft, starting with Marcus Smart in 2014 but especially with Jaylen Brown (3rd pick, 2016) and Jayson Tatum (3rd pick, 2017), the Lakers never quite found their franchise cornerstones through the draft. They’ve moved on from all of their high lottery players in Julius Randle (7th pick, 2014), D’Angelo Russell (2nd pick, 2015), Brandon Ingram (2nd pick 2016), and Lonzo Ball (2nd pick, 2017).
Still, the Lakers legacy was enough to attract LeBron James despite all of Los Angeles’ woeful moments. Then, when it seemed Boston and L.A. were both positioned for a tug of war for Anthony Davis’ services, and with the Celtics seemingly with more enticing assets, Davis power-played his way to Los Angeles.
In a way, this wouldn’t just be Celtics vs. Lakers, a rivalry renewed. This would be a showdown of contrasting roster construction. The Lakers filled out their roster this year with veteran pieces, including the former Celtics backcourt tandem of Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley, while the back end of Boston’s roster is loaded with younger players that the team hopes will eventually accentuate their core.
In one of the oddest seasons in NBA history, it would bring a bit of normalcy to see Celtics vs. Lakers in the Finals. Oh sure, you can make the case that LeBron versus his former Heat team with Pat Riley at the helm has plenty of storylines, too.
But there’s simply nothing like Celtics vs. Lakers.
It’s fun to daydream about, especially with one half of the equation already locked into place. We’d get to hear Brad Stevens tell the story about spending time on the same Indianapolis playgrounds as Frank Vogel back when they were both toiling in Indiana. Rajon Rondo would be trying to be the first player to win titles with both the Celtics and Lakers — and it’d be even crazier because each of those title wins would come against the other franchise.
Alas, there’s a whole lot of work for Boston to do to make a Celtics-Lakers showdown a reality. That starts with Sunday’s Game 6 against the Heat. Until Boston can maintain any sort of consistency in this series, Celtics and Lakers remains but a daydream.