Lakers and Celtics Both Feature Fresh Faces

With the Lakers’ stunning mid-season acquisition of Pau Gasol coupled with the season-ending injury to Andrew Bynum, the Celtics will be seeing a dramatically different Lakers roster when the two teams hit the hardwood on Thursday. While Boston’s made changes of their own, adding veterans P.J. Brown and Sam Cassell, Kobe believes that the Lakers have a slight advantage over a Celtics team that has yet to really see this current version in action.

“We got a nice little donation since then,” said Bryant, alluding to the trade for Pau. According to the MVP guard, the Lakers were still trying to figure out their identity in the rivals’ two early-season matchups.

Although Boston’s changes weren’t as wholesale as those made by the Lakers, Kobe said that L.A. shouldn’t discount the mid-season signings and internal growth of the Celtics.

“Both teams are different,” said Fisher. “Boston’s playing tons of different personnel. P.J. Brown and Sam Cassell weren’t even on the team. Obviously, Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins have really grown in their confidence, experience and ability. Both teams are different versions of the teams that played earlier in the season, but at the same time, still have some of the basic tenets and principles that it will take to be successful.”

For Lamar Odom, the Lakers’ evolution into a title contender isn’t simply due to Mitch Kupchak’s savvy mid-season trades, but also the increased trust level amongst the team.

“We’re a lot different,” said the forward. “The biggest difference is our confidence, our ability to move the ball and whatever teams take away from us, we counter that with our passing ability. I think we have a much better defensive team right now.”

Coach Jackson said that the Celtics–similar to the Lakers–are hitting their peak at the right time after a rough first two rounds against the Hawks and the Cavaliers.

“Just the tenor of how they play basically. I look at it as they’ve had more of a chance to improve their ball club and they’ve done that; they’ve improved as they’ve gone through the playoffs. I think they’re playing better now than they were earlier in the playoffs.”