In Boston, the combined powers of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart are expected to keep the Celtics near the top of the standings. With one of the best rosters in the NBA, the Cs have the potential to build on their Finals appearance and win big if they can all get on the same page this season.
Among fans and experts, there seems to be a lot of optimism that they can get the job done this time and many have them pegged as the title favorites in the East.
Meanwhile, out West, the Lakers are still looking for ways to improve after coming up empty on the Kyrie Irving sweepstakes. With Russell Westbrook still in tow, Rob Pelinka is hoping that new coach Darvin Ham has the means to integrate Russ into his system with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
So, the Lakers and Celtics are (seemingly) on two very different paths. As the Celtics trend upwards, the Lakers are trending down and quickly running out of time to take advantage of their title window.
This is the state of the NBA's biggest rivalry right now, which isn't even as intense as it used to be.
In a chat on his podcast, former Lakers player Byron Scott spoke about the height of the Lakers/Celtics era and revealed that there was genuine hatred for each other from both sides back then.
"We all retired and got to know each other off the court and we found out why we hated each other so much is because we had the same mentality. We wanted to win Championships. We didn't care about the name on the back of the jersey, we cared about the name on the front. The Celtic pride and the Laker pride was very obvious when you played the game and watched us play. We had pride in each other, we had pride for the organization and how much it meant to beat each other. We knew it was the two best franchises in basketball history. The rivalry was real, it was legit. We couldn't stand each other. We tried to beat them up, they tried to beat us up and in the midst of all that we were trying to win a series."
There was a point in NBA history when a Lakers-Celtics game was must-watch television. Besides the talent of both teams, every time they played it was an intense, hard-fought battle between two fierce enemies -- and fans loved the experience.
Nowadays, their games don't carry nearly the same level of emotion or urgency, but they still make for some entertaining moments.
Hopefully, within a few years, we'll see the rivalry re-ignited with an epic Finals matchup for title No. 18.