Celtics notebook

Wallace might be retiring

Rivers: Sheed may not ever play again

By Gary Dzen and Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / June 18, 2010

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LOS ANGELES — Doc Rivers was almost too choked up to get the words out. Rasheed Wallace had filled in for an injured Kendrick Perkins, playing more minutes than he had in any game this postseason, and was so exhausted he was cramping up on the bench.

Wallace has been a lighting rod all season, but after his effort in last night’s 83-79 Game 7 loss to the Lakers, the Celtics coach described him in a way no one had all year.

“He was a warrior,’’ Rivers said.

He then revealed that there is a chance the 35-year-old Wallace might retire, ending a career in which he made four All-Star teams and played in three Finals.

“I don’t know if Rasheed will ever play again,’’ Rivers said. “I think he took that out on the floor with him. I think he is thinking about retiring, and I thought you could see that in his play. He was dying out there. When he got the cramps and the strains, he was just trying to figure out a way of staying on the floor. We had to keep subbing him for one minute and two minutes.’’

Wallace scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds but fouled out after 35 minutes 36 seconds. He took Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom to the post, getting turnaround jumpers to go, but he also fought to tap rebounds and give the Celtics extra possessions.

“I thought the reason we got up early was because of Rasheed Wallace,’’ Rivers said. “We got it low in the post, he started scoring, and I thought what happened was late in the game he got tired and had the injuries and we couldn’t go down anymore, and I think that had a huge impact on how we were playing. We had to go away from the post almost because of fatigue.’’

Wallace had a strong bond with Kevin Garnett before he came to Boston. Garnett said it was difficult knowing that this could be his last game.

“Sheed’s situation is very personal, you know, because I see a lot of myself in him,’’ Garnett said. “We have a lot of the same ties and a lot of same characteristics. Both Class of ’95 [draft], old heads if you want to call it that. For him to come in and give his thanks and his regards after a loss like this and a game like this was difficult. It was a difficult night.’’

Wallace was outside the officials’ locker room following the game, apparently waiting to talk to referee Dan Crawford.

Celtics president Danny Ainge was as much at a loss as the players.

“Not too happy right now, it’s pretty tough,’’ he said. “We had our chances. We had a 13-point lead in the second half and couldn’t hold it, so that’s frustrating. We had our chances.’’

He gave credit to the Lakers for rallying in the fourth quarter.

“These guys, they really are champions. They played hard, they really stepped it up when they needed to,’’ Ainge said. “It was a great series but I still think the guys don’t feel like . . . they had their chances and we just didn’t get it done.

The offseason will be a busy one, from Ray Allen’s pending free agency to Rivers’s future. Ainge said he and Rivers would have a conversation.

“We’ll talk about that in another week or so, I’m not sure,’’ Ainge said.

Changes coming
As much as the Celtics have tried to block out the uncertainty of the offseason, dealing with what happens next is inevitable.

“We’re in for a long summer,’’ Rajon Rondo said before last night’s Game 7.

Signing a five-year, $55 million contract extension in November guaranteed that Rondo would be one of the Celtics’ primary pieces in what ultimately will be a period of transition. Ray Allen will be an unrestricted free agent July 1. Paul Pierce has a $21.5 million player option for 2010-11. Beyond Glen Davis and Wallace, the reserves will all be free agents. And now, Perkins will be coming off knee injury.

“I can only control what I can control,’’ Rondo said. “It’s literally out of my control. They’ll make a decision when the time comes, but you can’t do anything until July 1. So at least I’ll have a couple days to think about it. Hopefully we can all come back, but that’s not going to happen.’’

Having seen teams assembled and then deconstructed over the course of his career, Allen looked at potential change as merely part of the natural order of the league.

“I’ve been with other great players and I’ve been on teams with other great coaches,’’ Allen said. “You just always take solace in the fact that you do everything you possibly can to get yourself in a good situation and move forward, whether it’s in your current situation or if you have to move.’’

Still, the dynamic the Celtics built the past three seasons is uncommon, where superstars like Allen, Pierce, and Kevin Garnett were able to win championships as they aged, a young talent like Rondo emerged as an All-Star, and a revolving door of veterans, from P.J. Brown and Sam Cassell to Michael Finley and Wallace, found a place where their experience was welcome.

“This is a very tight, close-knit group,’’ Garnett said.

Simply the best
No active player has won more championships than Kobe Bryant, only one active player (former teammate Shaquille O’Neal) has scored more points in his career, he will go down as one of the greatest Lakers ever, and Garnett believes he’s the best player in the game.

“Kobe is, period,’’ Garnett said. “I wouldn’t disagree with that. He makes his team go . . . every time you speak of Kobe, you speak of excellence, you think of excellence.’’

Garnett and Bryant are among the top of the list of players to make the jump from high school directly to the pros. Bryant entered the league in 1996, a year after Garnett, and while many players flamed out after trying to make the same jump, the two of them adapted quickly to the rigors of the league, carving out careers that will land them in the Hall of Fame.

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