Forgive me if I am not quite ready to put Sacre vs. Olynyk and the Battle for Canada on that same marquee just yet. Or ever.
As anyone who has even passively kept up on the '14-15 NBA season is aware, these are not your father's Lakers and Celtics. At 13-41, the Lakers are barreling towards a second consecutive lottery date and the worst season in franchise history. The Celtics are slightly better (20-32), but many of their wins can be chalked up to the perils of tanking in such an awful Eastern Conference.
After casting off Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green, the Celtics are in a full rebuild and youth movement. So while the newly acquired Isaiah Thomas may make his be-clovered debut on Sunday, look for Marcus Smart to get he majority of the point guard minutes for Boston. Smart, taken one selection in the 2014 draft before Lakers rookie Julius Randle, is averaging 7.4 points, 4.2 assists, and 1.4 steals in 27.6 minutes per game since the Rondo trade. The knock on the rookie heading into the draft was his shooting, and thus far in the NBA that has proven to be a problem, with Smart only making an ugly 37.2% of his shots (though to be fair he has shot a pretty good 36.1 percent on three-pointers).
Today's game should have been the rematch between Smart and Randle, the two hoped for cornerstones of these historic franchises, but fans will have to settle for a different rookie matchup in Smart vs. Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson has statistics very similar to Smart's since being moved into the starting lineup, averaging 13.5 points (39.3% FG, 31% 3pt) , 3.9 assists, and 1.3 steals in 30 minutes per game. Before people start saying Clarkson is just as good as Smart, keep in mind the second rounder's 23.2 percent usage rate in starts is nearly nine percent higher than Smart's 14.3% since Rondo was dealt.
The two rookie point guards going head to head is one of the few reasons to even watch this game. This is the ultimate example of fans rooting for "laundry", as most of these players will not be with these teams within a year or two. Some will root for a Lakers win, their hatred of Boston everlasting regardless of rebuilding implications. Others will cheer for the Lakers to lose and wound the Celtics where it really hurts, their lottery odds. No matter which side you fall on, enjoy the game.
Time: 6:30 p.m. PT
Station: TWCSN (Locally) NBATV (Nationally)