By A.Sherrod Blakely
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."