Friday's matchup between the Celtics and Lakers lacks luster, to say the least. If you've been asleep for the last year, you'll be scratching your head trying to figure out just who those guys are donning green and gold uniforms. The NBA's most hallowed rivalry is fresh off a seven-year resurgence, beginning when Boston acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2007.
That opened up a window of contention in Boston that included two Finals showdowns with Los Angeles. This season, both franchises will miss the playoffs. How rare is that? Since L.A. opened up shop in 1948-49, just once -- the 1993-94 season -- have both the Lakers and Celtics missed the playoffs. Once.
Celtics general manager Danny Ainge got the jump on his cross-country rivals in one regard: He knew when to pull the plug. Ainge jump-started Boston's reconstruction by dealing Garnett and franchise stalwart Paul Pierce to Brooklyn last summer.
The result has been a season of limbo in Boston, but with a bright new coach in Brad Stevens, a collection of extra future draft picks and a potential high lottery selection looming, Ainge has taken the first precarious steps down the road of recovery. That was the easy part, but Ainge has hoarded enough quality assets to put Boston's next push in the fast lane.