At last February’s trade deadline, Boston Celtics president Danny Ainge sounded like he was ready to break up the team’s vaunted Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to start over in 2012-13, either rebuilding around Rajon Rondo or dealing Rondo and starting over altogether. But a few months later, the Celtics look like they are determined to keep the band together and make another run at a championship next season with their veteran core.
The Celtics, according to sources, are increasingly optimistic they’ll be able to re-sign unrestricted free agent forward Jeff Green to a new contract, and are also more hopeful now they can keep Allen in the fold instead of losing him to the Miami Heat. The final decision is Allen’s, of course, and he’ll weigh offers from several teams (including the Heat and Grizzlies) in the next few days.
But Boston is hopeful that the last few days’ worth of events, starting with Garnett’s decision to agree on a three-year extension, combined with the selection of Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo in last Thursday’s Draft and the team’s strong showing in the East finals, will convince the 36-year-old Allen to accept the team’s two-year, $12 million offer.
That offer is more than what Miami, which only has its mini mid-level exception starting at $3.09 million, can offer Allen. The Grizzlies have their full mid-level exception starting at $5 million, however, and want to sign Allen to replace O.J. Mayo, the now-unrestricted free agent that Memphis did not tender with a qualifying offer last week. The Celtics had initially targeted Mayo as a primary free agent possibility, but now believe he’s going to get more money elsewhere. Several other teams, including the Pacers, are interested in him.
Allen’s decision could also hinge on which team can offer a starting job. The veteran didn’t complain publicly, but he was not happy when he lost his starting job toward the end of the regular season to second-year guard Avery Bradley. But Allen’s increasingly balky right ankle — which ultimately required surgery last month — slowed him noticeably and took away much of the elevation on his usually-deadly jump shot.
Ironically, though, it’s Allen who’ll likely be healthier at the start of next season after Bradley had to undergo surgery on both shoulders after the playoffs. It’s not clear if Miami would alter its starting lineup for Allen.
The Celtics will also have their mid-level exception to use to pursue another guard who can play both positions and help ease the burden on Rondo. Dallas’ Jason Terry is one of Boston’s top targets.
Meanwhile, the Celtics believe they’re “close,” as one source put it, to reaching agreement on a new deal with Green, who missed all of last season after undergoing open-heart surgery in December to repair an aortic aneurysm. The team had initially reached agreement with Green on a one-year deal before the season began, but once his condition was detected during a preseason physical the team rescinded the contract, making him an unrestricted free agent.
However, Green has passed a series of markers by physicians in the last few months and is expected back on the court next season. Last week, the NBA ordered that the Oklahoma City Thunder — which traded Green to Boston in 2011 as the centerpiece of the deal that sent center Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder — give the Celtics a 2013 second-round pick. This was because the league determined the Thunder’s medical staff had not provided their management with all relevant information regarding Green’s condition before the Thunder traded him to Boston.
Green’s agent, David Falk, said on Sunday that Green will give Boston the first shot at signing him. Falk will be in Boston on Monday as Sullinger, another of his clients, is formally introduced to the local media, and will discuss Green with Ainge and other members of the Celtics’ brain trust.
“He’s developed a very good relationship with Doc (Rivers, the head coach). And now that Sullinger is up there, as the Garnett era winds down, I could see the two of them as bookend forwards,” Falk said.
Green struggled with some of Boston’s defensive concepts during his first months with the team, but his length and athletic ability would give Boston much-needed front-court depth next season along with Sullinger and Melo. The Celtics also hope to re-sign free agent center Greg Stiemsma, who visited the Timberwolves over the weekend.