Celtics set to acquire Lee
3 players, pick to Houston
LAS VEGAS — The Celtics’ response to losing Ray Allen to the Heat was their relentless pursuit of free agent guard Courtney Lee. And although neither president of basketball operations Danny Ainge nor coach Doc Rivers would officially comment Thursday night, two NBA sources said the Celtics have completed the framework of a deal that will bring Lee to Boston in a sign-and-trade with the Rockets.
According to the sources, the Celtics will send JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore, Sean Williams, and a 2013 second-round pick to Houston for Lee, who will be entering his fifth NBA season.
Johnson, Moore, and Williams will earn a combined $2.7 million next season, and the Celtics could also sign an additional player, such as Mickael Pietrus or Keyon Dooling, to include in the deal to be able to increase Lee’s salary.
The Celtics dropped a 91-82 summer league decision to the Kings on Thursday, and Johnson was not with the team at the Thomas & Mack Center. Williams arrived in Celtics gear, took some shots, and then was pulled off the court for a conversation with Rivers.
Moore was wearing his Celtics jersey, but had sandals on, and headed out of the arena after a conversation with Rivers. Williams and Moore have nonguaranteed contracts for next season and are expected to be waived by the Rockets. Johnson has a guaranteed contract, but, according to an NBA source, will request a trade from the Rockets.
General manager Daryl Morey is overhauling the Rockets’ roster, trying to acquire assets and salary-cap space for a Dwight Howard deal or to acquire another superstar. The key to the trade may be the second-round pick, which was originally owned by Charlotte and which could be in the 30s overall.
Johnson, the Celtics’ first-round pick in 2011, never established a role, and his lack of development privately bothered some team officials. He struggled in stretches during summer league, and with the signings of Chris Wilcox, Jeff Green, and the drafting of Jared Sullinger, he was expendable.
Lee averaged 11.4 points last season for the Rockets, who did not to make him a qualifying offer. He is a career 38.6 percent 3-point shooter and above-average defender. He dined with Rivers July 7 and expressed a desire to play with the Celtics, at the right salary.
“Me and Doc, we’ve always had a relationship since I’ve been in the NBA,” Lee said July 9. “I’m a friend of both of his kids, Austin and Jeremiah. We work out together, always see each other. Me and Doc always speak. There’s interest there, but there was no verbal agreement or anything, just hearing each other out. He expressed his interest. I expressed my interest. It’s not basketball-wise that needs to be discussed, it’s the front office and my agent that need to communicate and go from there.”
Lee said eight teams were interested in acquiring him, but the market dwindled after the Mavericks signed O.J. Mayo.
The Celtics did not want to part with Moore, who played well during summer league and showed signs of becoming a dependable contributor, but his nonguaranteed contract and salary almost forced the Celtics to include him in the deal.
Lee, 26, fills the team’s need for a reserve shooting guard, and he could begin the season as a starter with Avery Bradley potentially out until December following surgeries on both shoulders. Lee has started 135 of 287 career games, including 26 last season.
Sign-and-trade deals must be for a minimum of three years, meaning the Celtics have Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, Brandon Bass, Green, and potentially Lee under contract for three years or more.
“I think our summer’s been good,” Rivers said. “And the end of the day, if we get everything we want, I think we would have had a great summer.”