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Potential Hornets deal still generating buzz

By Gary Washburn and Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / December 7, 2011
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WALTHAM - It appears that New Orleans point guard Chris Paul is going to be traded in the near future, and the Celtics have continued their conversations with the Hornets regarding Rajon Rondo, according to two NBA sources.

Although Celtics president Danny Ainge said he had no plans to move Rondo for Paul, the club has continued looking for a way to pry the perennial All-Star out of New Orleans.

The Celtics appear open to discussing a trade for Rondo, although a Hornets source said Boston was not “shopping’’ him.

Paul, who has an opt-clause after this season, has not indicated he would sign an extension with Boston.

Rondo has been at the team’s practice facility this week but has yet to speak to reporters. He apparently is uncomfortable with being the subject of trade banter, especially since he is entering the second year of a five-year, $55 million contract.

Paul has reportedly targeted New York as his future destination, but the Knicks hardly have the assets to trade for him, unless they include Carmelo Anthony or Amar’e Stoudemire in a deal. The Clippers and Warriors have also gotten involved, but the key is enticing Paul to sign an extension.

The Celtics have very few certainties after this season, with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen coming off the books at a combined $31 million. With so much cap space next summer, Ainge could bring them back on reduced contracts and sign a major free agent.

The opportunity to win a championship and the chance to play with the Big Three may encourage Paul to come to Boston for one season.

After Rondo and Paul nearly came to blows during a Nov. 1, 2009, game at TD Garden, Paul had nothing but compliments for the Celtics.

“I’m a big advocate for the Boston Celtics and how they defend and how they play hard and play together,’’ he said after the game. “It’s something that we want to get to. Boston has established themselves as a team that’s not going to beat themselves.’’

And when asked about his budding rivalry with Rondo, he said, “I think Rondo’s a lucky guy to be able to play with a guy like Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and KG, Rasheed Wallace.’’

Ainge wants to ensure that the Celtics make one final title run with this core, and he may be willing to rent Paul for one season to better their chances.

Brown on the way

When last June’s draft ended, one of the first phone calls Ainge made was to Pittsburgh shooting guard Gilbert Brown.

Brown was a four-year player for the Panthers with offensive intangibles and defensive ability, but he fell out of the draft. Ainge invited him to work out at the Celtics practice facility and kept in touch with him.

Yesterday, the rookie free agent was invited to join the Celtics at training camp when it opens Friday, and he will arrive in Waltham today for his physical.

A 6-foot-6-inch shooting guard, Brown averaged 11.3 points and 4.4 rebounds last season at Pitt.

“Gilbert’s going to be in camp and I think it’s a great opportunity,’’ said Brown’s agent, T.J. Doyle. “I think he’s a great fit for the Celtics and he comes from a really similar defensive system in Pittsburgh and similar structure offensively and defensively. He’s really excited.’’

The Celtics can use the extra body, and Doyle believes Brown will be a good fit.

“He’s the kind of player that Boston fans love and that they need,’’ Doyle said. “Brings toughness on the wing, a good defender.’’

Spots to fill

Monday was the first day teams could reach out to players, and Ainge and his staff have been working the phones. Two players they reached out to were Glen Davis and Reggie Evans. Ainge also has been in talks with representatives for restricted free agent Jeff Green, Delonte West, Anthony Parker, Shannon Brown, Kwame Brown, and Marquis Daniels.

“I don’t think we’ll have a team finalized for training camp, but I think we’ll have a team,’’ Ainge said. “Whatever the rules are, we’ll be ready.’’

Gary Washburn can be reached at; Julian Benbow can be reached at .

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