Here in Boston, we don’t like the R-word. Rebuilding is frowned upon in the “City of Champions.”

We expect our teams to contend annually. And, over the past 15 years, they pretty much have. The incredible run of nine championships in those 15 years (four Super Bowl titles, three World Series championships, one Stanley Cup and one NBA championship) have been well documented.

The Patriots are once again division champs and have clinched a first-round bye. The Red Sox just added one of the premier pitchers in baseball and are the prohibitive favorites to win the American League pennant.

The Bruins and Celtics are a different matter entirely. Both are, dare we say it, rebuilding before our eyes.

A few years back, Celtics President Danny Ainge stockpiled enough NBA draft picks to field an expansion team. We are now in the midst of watching those picks come to fruition. Basketball fans have talked about this team’s future for a long time now, and the beginning of that future is here.

Ainge had hoped to flip some of those picks for a bonafide NBA superstar. It hasn’t happened yet. What has happened is Isaiah Thomas has developed into a go-to shooter. Al Horford was brought in to help a young roster take a step closer to contending.

Last year, Ainge was stuck with the third pick in what was essentially a two-player draft. Jaylen Brown might be a nice complementary part of a contending team down the road, but he won’t be the man on that team. Ainge has to be hoping next year’s draft is deeper – and hoping the Brooklyn Nets continue to struggle. At this moment the Nets have won just seven games and Ainge holds the right to swap next year’s first-round pick with the Nets. He also holds their 2018 first rounder.

So the building continues, yet so does the frustration for a team that takes one step forward and another step back. They’ve beaten the weaker opponents of the NBA (like the win over last-place Miami on Sunday) but they have yet to prove they can compete with the league’s best.

The Bruins haven’t gotten as much attention for their attempts at rebuilding, partially because they are just three years removed from an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Yet GM Don Sweeney has done just that, trading away Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton for prospects and picks. His predecessor, Peter Chiarelli, got the trend started before that with the Johnny Boychuk trade to the Islanders.

That’s why eight players have made their NHL debut for the Bruins this season. Brandon Carlo is the standout in the group, emerging into a legitimate top-four NHL defenseman at the age of 20. David Pastrnak is just six months older than Carlo, and is second only to Sidney Crosby in goal-scoring this season.

Hockey’s development process isn’t like that of any other sport. Players are drafted, then return to their college, junior, or European Elite leagues.

The Bruins have prospects at all levels of development. Former Boston University star Matt Grzelcyk used his skating game to get his first call-up from Providence to Boston last week, while former Denver University star Danton Heinen is averaging a point per game in his first full year as a pro in Providence.

In the college ranks, Bruins draftee Anders Bjork of Notre Dame is one of the top players in the country. Charlie McAvoy anchors a defense that has Boston University thinking of a return to the national championship game. Two junior players to keep tabs on are Zachary Senyshyn, a right wing in Sault Ste. Marie, and Jakub Zboril, a defenseman in Saint John. All are Bruins prospects.

Sweeney and Ainge both feel good they can build strong franchises from the players working their way up and into the roster. That’s not easy to do in a city that wants to win now. But we watched the Sox finish last in three out of four seasons – and are now thrilled that Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi and others are a young core to build around.

Building that core takes time. And both the Celtics and Bruins are going through that process right now.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: