Notes: Celtics know changes are coming

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Notes: Celtics know changes are coming

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

MIAMI The season has ended for the Boston Celtics in the second round of the playoffs. For many franchises, it would be seen as a good, but not great season.

But the Celtics aren't just any team.

They have 17 championship banners, more than any other franchise.

It's not unusual for you to come to practice and see a Hall of Famer John Havlicek talking it up with a soon-to-be Hall of Famer like Shaquille O'Neal.

"We look at it as a failure this year, not winning a championship," said Rajon Rondo, Boston's precocious playmaker.

Now that the offseason has unofficially begun, look for the Celtics examine every way imaginable to improve their roster.

While players believe the core group should stay intact and make one last run at a title with Doc Rivers as the head coach, they know enough about the league to know that change is inevitable.

Adding talented players is a given.

But when you look at the teams in the NBA that are making the strongest push toward a title, you have the Miami Heat and its Big Three of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh; you have the Chicago Bulls led by league MVP Derrick Rose; and then there are teams like the Atlanta Hawks with arguably as much or more athleticism than any team in the NBA.

"If we can get some young guys in here who can pick up the load in the regular season, we'll be fine," Rondo said.

Getting the right players back will go far in determining whether the C's can go deeper than the second round next season.

Paul Pierce is actually more concerned with whether the Celtics can convince Rivers to return next season.

Rivers was asked about that after the game, and said that he's "leaning heavily" toward returning to the Celtics bench next season.

"I'm a Celtic and I love our guys," Rivers said. "I want to win here, and I'm competitive as hell. I have a competitive group so we'll see."

The past couple of days, there has been heightened concern about Rondo and his left elbow which was dislocated in Game 3 of Boston's second-round series with the Heat.

Rondo spent the entire fourth quarter on the bench dealing with a different injury.

"My back, it was hurting so much," said Rondo, who had six points and three assists. "It elbow didn't bother me tonight."

For most of the season, Rivers could see all the negative attention drawn to the Heat would pay off for them in the playoffs.

Unfortunately for the Celtics, he was right.

"I thought it helped them," Rivers said. "I said it all year that I wished the media would leave them alone because it allowed them to go through something and it prepared them for the playoffs."

Rivers recalls how in 2007, the Celtics got lots of love seemingly every time their Big Three was in the building.

"I go back to our first year together. We went through a seamless year -- people actually like us," Rivers said. "I was concerned going into the playoffs against Atlanta because we hadn't done anything."

That series went seven games before the Celtics prevailed.

"It scared the lights out of everybody," Rivers said.

But the Heat went through their adversity during the regular season.

"They get booed and they get everything," said Rivers. "I thought you guys media gave them the assist, so thank you."

The Heat went back in time and pulled out an oldie but good one off the shelf, better known to you and I as Juwan Howard.

With Joel Anthony starting and Zydrunas Ilgauskas coming off the bench, Miami needed a spark to get on track.

They seemed to have found one in Howard.

"You have to stay ready," said Howard who had five points off the bench. "You never know when you're name is going to be called. I come in with a mindset; preparing like I'm in the rotation even though I'm not in the rotation."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

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Celtics-Bucks preview: C's preferred starting five making an impact

Celtics-Bucks preview: C's preferred starting five making an impact

BOSTON – It took Brad Stevens about eight minutes to realize his starters worked well together.

That’s how long they were on the floor to start Boston’s first preseason game back in October, opening the season with a 23-9 run against Philadelphia.

Now the rest of the NBA basketball world is starting to take notice with the Celtics (48-26) holding down the best record in the Eastern Conference with a chance to add to that tonight against the hard-charging Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bucks (38-36), coming off a 118-108 win at Charlotte on Tuesday, have won 12 of their last 15 games.

Boston is well aware that Milwaukee is playing some of its best basketball at the moment, led by all-star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

For the Celtics, that doesn’t matter.

Regardless of where they are in the Eastern Conference pecking order or who they play, the number one priority for them at this point is to continue playing good basketball.

“Every team in the NBA should want to be the best team in the NBA,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “We’re showing that we can be if we’re playing the right kind of basketball. That’s an accomplishment, to be first in the east. We understand that. But at the same time, we understand we could lose it (tonight against Milwaukee). We have to worry about (tonight’s) game and everything will take care of itself.”

Especially if Boston’s preferred starting five – Isaiah Thomas; Bradley; Jae Crowder; Al Horford and Amir Johnson – are playing together.

Although they have only played 31 games together this season, they have reeled off an impressive 24-7 record which puts them among the best starting fives in the NBA this season.

“They really have complimented each other well,” Stevens said. “But you could see it. I remember the first exhibition game (against Philadelphia), we could all see it. Before that, the second unit had given them fits a little bit, the first couple of weeks of practice. But that subsided and I thought our guys, that starting unit has been pretty good.”

And it’s not just what they do during games, either.

Setting the tone in all phases of the game, on and off the court, is vital to both the success of the starting unit and the team as a whole.

“That’s part of it; part of us being leaders on the team,” Bradley said. “We have to bring it every single day. Shoot-around, being focused, film sessions. It’s our job to try to help the bench players focus just as much as we are. We’re a team. We all have to hold each other accountable. I feel like we’re doing a great job.”

But ultimately, every team and every unit within that team is judged on how their works contribute to winning.

And when it comes to the Celtics’ starting five, there’s little argument that they get the job done better than most of the NBA’s starting units.

So when asked why they have been so successful this season, Thomas delivered a straight-no-chaser response.

“Because we’re good; like we’re really good,” Thomas said. “That’s why it’s been so successful. When we are healthy, we know how to play with each other and guys are unselfish and know their roles. We have a really good starting lineup and when healthy, we play at a really high level. We have to continue to do that and end this season on a good note.”