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credits: Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire | source: AP

The East Coast’s most storied franchise is marking another return to the NBA Finals, while the most acclaimed team on the West Coast is set to remodel the interior again.

The Los Angeles Lakers will be watching the Boston Celtics play for the title while they come up with a plan on how they can play for another banner — amid the reality that their stars will be another year older in 2024-25.

How much older? LeBron James will turn 40 in December as the clock ticks louder on the Lakers’ current window to contend.

It is something the new Los Angeles head coach will need to be mindful of after Darvin Ham was fired following this past season’s first-round playoff exit. Reports indicated Thursday that UConn head coach Dan Hurley is the Lakers’ first choice for the spot, with JJ Redick and James Borrego previously reported as candidates.

So how can the Lakers win the offseason and rise to the Celtics’ level next season? The perfect examples are on the floor in the NBA Finals.

Despite James’ advanced age, the Lakers’ most seamless way to contend by next season is to keep him in the fold with fellow star Anthony Davis, while once again trying to add the ideal complementary pieces.

D’Angelo Russell managed to make a case that he should not be traded last season, but for every game of 25-plus points — including seven of his 18 on the season that came in the 13 games before the trade deadline — there were other outings where he lacked his edge and high-end productivity.

Russell failed to score in Game 3 of the Lakers’ first-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets when he went 0-of-7 from the floor and 0-of-6 from 3-point range in 24 minutes. Los Angeles lost and fell into a 3-0 series hole.

Russell averaged 14.2 points in five playoff games, compared to 18.0 in the regular season and 20.8 points over his final 41 games of the schedule.

Rui Hachimura and Austin Reaves have shown their effectiveness, but Taurean Prince and late-season addition Spencer Dinwiddie had their limitations. Cam Reddish and Jarred Vanderbilt missed significant time with injuries, which hindered defensive and rebounding continuity.

The Celtics and Finals foe Dallas Mavericks have their own dynamic duos. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown lead the Celtics, while Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving guide the Mavericks.

But the Celtics are a title contender thanks to the contributions from Kristaps Porzingis, Jrue Holiday and Derrick White. The Mavericks are much improved from a team that didn’t even sniff the playoffs last season after making midseason additions like PJ Washington and Daniel Gafford.

The Lakers need similar additions that blend in with Reaves and Hachimura in support of James and Davis.

Where can the Lakers make their mark? Scoring always seems to be king, and outside shooting is needed to spread the floor. But Los Angeles also needs to shore up its defense and rebounding outside of the rim protection Davis and James bring.

Dejounte Murray was a potential rumored acquisition by the Lakers last season and Lauri Markkanen has emerged as a desired asset, but while the Lakers do have the No. 17 pick in this year’s draft, they don’t appear to have enough to offer for either.

Free agent Kelly Oubre Jr. has raised his value after a productive season for the Philadelphia 76ers, while guard Malcolm Brogdon of the Portland Trail Blazers and forward Dorian Finney-Smith of the Brooklyn Nets could end up as trade targets.

There are pie-in-the-sky trade options, as well, like the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Donovan Mitchell, the return of Kyle Kuzma from the Washington Wizards to slide back into a secondary role and Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks to provide high-level scoring despite his defensive limitations (and his high salary).

Whatever the moves, they aren’t likely to be boring. This is Los Angeles after all. But the Lakers already have their stars, and in their own town, perhaps more than any other, the performances of talented supporting actors are appreciated.

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