|Paul Pierce gets an easy 2 points on a baseline dunk. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)|
Clippers point guard Sam Cassell is literally willing to pay the price to join the Celtics.
Cassell said yesterday that his agent, David Falk, has had conversations with the Clippers about a potential buyout and he is interested in joining the Celtics if that happens. The 38-year-old is making $6.15 million in the final year of his contract.
Celtics executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge has said he is interested in finding "the right veteran point guard." The Celtics are rumored to have interest in Cassell.
"I've earned enough," said Cassell. "I've saved a little money. I put money away. I just want to win. Winning is the most important thing to me."
Falk is out of the country and wasn't available for comment. An NBA source said Falk has spoken to Clippers owner Donald Sterling about a buyout. The Celtics do not have the pieces to make a trade for the 6-foot-3-inch, 185-pounder and would need a buyout to acquire him via free agency.
Cassell said a buyout is "the only way I can get [to Boston]." An NBA source said the Clippers do not have any trades or a buyout on the table for Cassell. When asked if the Clippers would buy out a player, coach Mike Dunleavy said, "That's not our stance."
Cassell, a 15-year veteran, is averaging 13.1 points, 4.5 assists, and 2.6 rebounds in 26 minutes per game and has started 29 of 34 games. The 2004 All-Star is averaging 15.9 points, 6.1 assists, and 3.3 rebounds in 972 career regular-season games. He has played in 115 playoff games and won two NBA championships with the Rockets.
"I think I'd be a nice addition," Cassell said. "It would be fun, but I don't even know [if I can become a free agent]. I'm playing for the Clippers now."
He didn't play much for the Clippers last night. He was ejected for a flagrant foul on Rajon Rondo after 16 minutes, during which he collected 10 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds. Cassell is familiar with several Celtics. He played with Kevin Garnett in Minnesota and Ray Allen in Milwaukee. He has worked out in the offseason with Paul Pierce in Los Angeles and Kendrick Perkins in Houston.
"Whatever happens, happens," Cassell said. "But it is a good situation, the Boston situation, with the pieces and [when Garnett] gets healthy. I don't think the adjustment would be tough for me.
"I think it's realistic. It's just a matter of time. I don't want to say too much. I'm optimistic about the whole situation. That's why I got David Falk. That's what he loves to do."
Cassell and Garnett still have a close relationship. When asked if he has talked to Garnett about Boston, Cassell said, "Garnett is a superstitious kind of guy. He doesn't say too much. He wouldn't mind it. I know that for a fact."
Rondo has been playing well and would continue to start if a veteran point guard is acquired. Gary Payton, Travis Best, and Randy Livingston have said they would like to join the Celtics, too. When asked about backing up Rondo, Cassell said, "Whatever. I've been told it's not who starts the game, it's who finishes."
At the end of the Clippers' shootaround, Cassell looked to the rafters at TD Banknorth Garden at the retired Celtics numbers and pondered what it would be like playing for the storied franchise.
"You got to wonder," Cassell said. "All the tradition is in the rafters. Maybe not in this building, but in the rafters. It's crazy. You see these guys . . . DJ [Dennis Johnson] . . . [Cedric ] Maxwell, Chief [Robert Parish]. You got so many numbers [retired], you don't even have numbers you can wear."
Ainge does not comment on other teams' players. Other than saying Cassell was a nice guy and a competitor, coach Doc Rivers can't talk about the Cassell situation. Garnett said he spoke to Cassell "a little bit to see how he's doing."
"I'm a friend of Sam's," Allen said. "If we had Sam, I'd be all for it and ready to make good things happen with him."