At 12:01, the Celtics were free thinkers
When period began, call went out to Allen
Shortly after Celtics coach Doc Rivers decided to return for at least another season, he and president Danny Ainge met to determine the team’s free agent needs. Their desires were very clear.
The Celtics began their quest for another title run by calling Ray Allen at 12:01 a.m. yesterday, when unrestricted free agents could begin making contact with interested clubs. And the reaching out continued with veteran center Brad Miller and forward David Lee, both of whom will be in high demand.
Rivers said the Celtics have to be aggressive in pursuing free agents, especially in this frantic time when teams have money to spend and the sought-after players are eventually going to dry up. Talks on a contract extension between Paul Pierce’s agent, Jeff Schwartz, and Ainge have intensified.
Meanwhile, Allen, who turns 35 July 20, has said he wants to return to Boston, but he could be wooed by teams interested in a sharpshooter and positive locker-room presence. Rivers stressed Allen’s importance to the team by making him the first free agent the team called.
Allen has not met with any other clubs, and Rivers wants to ensure he stays in Boston.
“I can’t go into whom [we called], but I can tell you we started at 12:01 like everybody else did,’’ Rivers said. “The first call, we called Ray. We sat around and we have these names on the list and we said, ‘Hey guys, our most important guy is Ray. We gotta get Ray back.’ And we already talked to Paul because we could. Ray is a vital part to our basketball team, huge.’’
Allen averaged 16.3 points per game this past season, shooting 36 percent from the 3-point line. He remains one of the NBA’s top outside shooters.
“I think because [Rajon] Rondo, Kevin [Garnett], and Paul get so much pub, I don’t think people really appreciate and understand how important Ray is and what he does even when he is not shooting, his presence on the floor,’’ Rivers said. “Danny and I are sitting around and thinking, ‘There’s nobody out there that can do what he does.’ So he’s our most important, and so obviously we made some calls to some [big men] and you could probably figure them out, but they are all out there.’’
Ainge called agent Mark Bartelstein about Miller and Lee soon after free agency began.
“The Celtics are a great franchise,’’ Bartelstein said. “It’s certainly a team, when they are interested you’re crazy not to listen. Danny and Doc do a great job. Brad loves the way the Celtics play. That’s why they get into it all the time. They’re very competitive; he’s very competitive. We’ll certainly talk to them and see what happens. It’s a real interesting fit. We’ll talk to Danny and see what happens here.’’
Rivers is concerned the Celtics may open next season with no legitimate center, with Kendrick Perkins out at least six months with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and Rasheed Wallace expected to retire.
“To start the season literally with no center in place would put us in a lot of trouble, so we have to go out and get a big,’’ Rivers said. “We have to go find a big that can play when Perk’s not there and play when Perk comes back until we have some size. That’s our No. 1 priority.’’
The Celtics also have reached out to Golden State restricted free agent guard Anthony Morrow, an indication they are seeking perimeter shooting off the bench. The Celtics were 17th last season in 3-point percentage and 16th in made 3-pointers.
“We’d like to add another shooter to our team at any of the positions, 1, 2, or 3,’’ Rivers said. “I thought the lack of shooting hurt us all year, and definitely in the playoffs.’’
Rivers realizes there are plenty of teams with money to spend who would love to add Pierce, Allen, or the Celtics’ other free agent targets. So being aggressive is the theme.
“We still have to do our job,’’ Rivers said. “Paul and Ray want to come back, but there’s the business aspect of it and that’s always scary. There’s so many teams with so many different money options, so you are always concerned that one of these teams with all this money don’t get guys and they just open up the bank. We’ve still got to do our job and we’ve got to have one and maybe two more players, if we can. This free agent market is so volatile right now. I have never seen anything like it, the years I have been in the league. Anything can happen, and we understand that.’’
Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com.