The rivalrly will always exist, but without superstar participants on both sides, the Lakers-Celtics matchups are truly lacking. Kobe Bryant will watch the sorry rosters both teams put out there tonight, while recalling battles he had with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in years past. Per the Boston Herald:

“Absolutely,” he said recently after a Lakers practice that went on without him and his fractured left knee. “It was tough to see that happen. I mean, going against Paul and KG, Lakers-Celtics? That’s good basketball.”

“When we played against them, you saw really good basketball,” Kobe said. “You saw smart players, unselfish players who played both ends of the floor, multi-faceted players. So of course I’d hoped for a team like that to stick together, because that’s the maximum level of competition that you’re going to have. I mean, that 2010 series is my favorite series of all time, just because it was the most competitive one. It was the most difficult one. I mean, we’re going against four future Hall of Famers. That doesn’t happen too often.”

Having lost the 2008 Finals to the Celtics in six games and come back to win in seven two years later, Bryant smiled and admitted he’d harbored the hope that the two fabled franchises could thread the NBA needle and meet in the rubber match this spring. He laughed long and hard when it was suggested that such a series might resemble Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro starring in “Grudge Match.”

“Yeah,” Kobe said, “but in boxing it looks a little bit different than it does in a team sport. In a team sport, you can hide a little bit more. But, of course. As a competitor, you want to be able to see that and face them.”

“In 2008, that was it,” he said. “Prior to that, Boston had some struggles. Like when we played them there, it seemed like there were more Laker fans than Celtic fans. But in ’08, that’s when everything turned and it was a palpable sense in the city about the Celtics and the Lakers. You could feel it. It’s a personal thing. Even though now Bird and Magic are all good friends and off the court the rivalry is kind of put behind, on the court, I mean, that’s still there. When you think about how many championships we cost them during that era and how many championships they’ve cost the Lakers, there’s got to be some tension there. The way I look at it, they cost me my sixth one. I should be sitting here with six.”