Allen decides to remain with Celtics

By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / July 8, 2010

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The Celtics’ offseason plans are working to perfection. After many fans feared the team would be broken up and rebuilt after losing in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, management has acted to the contrary and brought back all the critical pieces.

Ray Allen became the latest veteran to return, agreeing last night to a two-year, $20 million contract that contains a player option for the second season, giving Allen the option of being a free agent again next summer. Allen couldn’t sign the contract until midnight last night, and the Celtics were not allowed to comment on a deal until the moratorium ended.

“I’m so happy to be returning,’’ he said in a text message to the Globe. “I’m looking forward to all the great times ahead.’’

Allen had maintained his desire to return to Boston, but didn’t agree to re-sign right away. He was wooed by several teams in need of a veteran shooter, and when Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decided yesterday to sign with the Miami Heat, there was speculation that Allen would bolt for Florida to join them.

But he instead decided to remain in the Northeast, and team with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett for one or perhaps two more title runs. Perhaps a key factor was the return of coach Doc Rivers, who took two weeks off after the Finals before deciding to come back for a seventh season.

The Celtics will enter next season with four of their five starters from this past season, and the fifth, Kendrick Perkins, could return in February from knee surgery.

Allen, who joined the Celtics on draft night in 2007, averaged 16.3 points and shot 36 percent from the 3-point line last season. He set a record for 3-pointers in a Finals game with eight in the Game 2 win over the Lakers in Los Angeles. In the final five games of the series, however, Allen was 4 for 28 from 3-point range, as he, like many of his teammates, appeared to tire during the latter stages of the series.

Still, Allen is considered one of the league’s finest shooters and needs just 117 regular-season 3-pointers to become the NBA’s all-time leader. He canned 145 last season and has 2,444 for his career.

“We’ve had continuous conversation,’’ team president Danny Ainge said of Allen before the contract was agreed upon. The Celtics talked with Allen every day during the free agency period, but he made it clear he wanted to hear from other clubs. It was the third time Allen has been a free agent, and on each occasion he re-signed with the team.

But the Celtics were still concerned that Allen, who turns 35 July 20, would leave to perhaps play with one of the premium free agents or leave for a club that has money to spend. Teams such as New Jersey, the New York Knicks, Miami, the Los Angeles Clippers, and Chicago had salary cap space to give Allen a lucrative contract.

With Allen re-signed, Ainge will now look for help in the frontcourt. An NBA source said that former Heat center Jermaine O’Neal is interested in playing with the Celtics and is considering the possibility of coming to Boston on the midlevel exception, which starts at $5.765 million next season.

Ainge is working to replenish the roster despite being over the salary cap. Allen earned $19.7 million last season, the final year of a five-year, $85 million contract he signed in 2005 with the Seattle SuperSonics.

Now that the Celtics can release that $18.7 million cap hold on Allen’s contract and replace it with $10 million, they could get some salary cap relief.

Pierce can now officially sign his four-year extension and the Celtics can do the same cap replacement with his contract. He is expected to earn approximately $15 million in the first year of his new deal, after making $19.7 million last season.

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