The Celtics lost point guard Rajon Rondo to a torn ACL in January, almost a month before the trade deadline. But GM Danny Ainge declined to add another ball-handler, and it cost them dearly in the playoffs against the Knicks.
The struggles of both teams to overcome key injuries stands in stark contrast to the Bulls, who have weathered the season-long absence of Derrick Rose and serious health concerns for Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich to advance to the second round. The Spurs won 58 games despite missing Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili for long stretches.
Now the Celtics enter yet another summer of deciding whether to bring back Pierce and Garnett, or start over around a rehabbing Rondo and Jeff Green, who played well with the increased minutes. Only this time the finality is much more palpable.
Pierce could be traded, while Garnett is considering retirement.
"You know, we need more," Rivers said. "But the key is, for us, you know, do you want to take away to get more? And that will be a decision that will be made later."
The last time the second round of the playoffs didn't have at least one of these two teams, the Celtics failed to make it altogether and the Lakers were bounced by the Phoenix Suns in 2007.
Ainge brought in Garnett and Ray Allen later that summer and Kupchak landed Gasol from Memphis in a trade, and the two were rekindling a decades-old rivalry in the NBA Finals, and ushering in a new era of popularity for the league, the following June.
Those days seem so long ago and far away now, but Kupchak isn't ready to concede anything.
"Certainly, some players might not prefer to play on a stage like in Los Angeles, but I do know that this franchise will continue to be run as a model franchise," he said. "This is a very desirable place for players to play. What it comes down to is being comfortable selling the Los Angeles Lakers, and that's where my confidence lies the most."
AP Sports Writer Jimmy Golen in Boston contributed to this report.