Allen opts for security in Memphis

By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / July 12, 2010

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LAS VEGAS — The Celtics had seen the best and the worst of Tony Allen over his six seasons in Boston, and that body of work was not good enough to convince the team to give Allen three guaranteed years.

So Allen jumped on a three-year deal with the Memphis Grizzlies yesterday.

“All I am at liberty to say is that we have come to terms with Tony Allen, and expect to sign a contract soon,’’ Memphis general manager Chris Wallace said.

It is an unexpected blow to the Celtics, who worked feverishly in re-signing Paul Pierce and Ray Allen and adding Jermaine O’Neal in the past week. Tony Allen’s contract situation appeared to be less of a priority and negotiations didn’t heat up until the past few days.

Team president Danny Ainge told reporters in Orlando Thursday that he wanted to bring Tony Allen and Nate Robinson back, but the question with Allen was terms.

Allen sought longer-term security and the Celtics were reluctant to give him a guaranteed third year. Allen has suffered through myriad injuries and spent time in coach Doc Rivers’s doghouse during the past six years, and the Celtics became frustrated with his inconsistency.

Allen received three guaranteed years from the rising Grizzlies, who re-signed Rudy Gay and drafted Xavier Henry to join O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley, and Marc Gasol.

The Grizzlies are expected to use Allen as a defender off the bench, a role in which he flourished with the Celtics in the latter stages of this season. He missed 28 games because of right ankle surgery but Rivers thrust him into a key role near the end of the regular season.

He earned more playing time with splendid defensive play, and that continued into the postseason when he helped contain superstars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. With the Celtics desperately needing defense and youth, re-signing Allen would seem to have been a major priority.

But his negotiations were pushed back and Allen’s agent, Michael Higgins, last week appeared befuddled that the Celtics weren’t more aggressive. The Celtics didn’t begin seriously talking numbers with Allen until a few days ago and Wallace swept in with a guaranteed third year and more than $3 million per season, a modest raise from $2.5 million in 2009-10.

The job security and a chance for an expended role swayed Allen from the only organization he has played for. The Celtics could have re-signed Allen to a contract without salary cap constraints because they owned his Larry Bird rights.

The Celtics now must find a veteran defender at a low price because they are over the salary cap.

There are a handful of desired free agents, but salary will be an issue. Boston has reached out to former Toronto guard Antoine Wright, and former Minnesota swingman Damien Wilkins also could be a consideration.

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