NBA

Celtics' Ainge determined to keep 'Big Three' together

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Associated Press
7/2/2012 2:15:36 PM
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BOSTON -- Celtics president Danny Ainge is determined to keep the team's Big Three in Boston next season.

Ainge said Monday he is hoping to keep intact the aging trio of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, who brought the Celtics their first NBA championship in 22 years in 2008.

Pierce is already under contract and Garnett has reportedly agreed to a new three-year deal that can't be finalized until July 11 -- the first day free agents can officially sign.

What's left for Ainge is to convince Allen, a free agent, to stay. The veteran shooting guard, who just had ankle surgery, is reportedly being courted by Miami and Memphis, but the Celtics are in position to offer Allen more money than either the Heat or Grizzlies.

"I'm not sure if there's progress or no progress, there's just conversation going on," Ainge said of the team's talks with Allen. "We really want Ray to come back. Time will tell."

Ainge added the he also wants to re-sign free agent forwards Brandon Bass and Jeff Green, who missed all of this past season with a heart problem that required surgery. Big man Chris Wilcox, who also missed time with a heart condition, is also on Ainge's radar.

But Ainge says the Big Three remain the key to the Celtics again contending in the Eastern Conference.

"I think we all can look at our Big Three and say if they went to play for some of the top teams in the league how good they would be and how much they would help those teams," said Ainge. "The only question in Boston is can they carry a team, so we need help."

Meanwhile, Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo, the 21st and 22nd players taken in the draft, and second-round pick Kris Joseph were introduced to the media.

Ainge said Sullinger, a power forward and likely a top pick if he would have left Ohio State last year instead of returning and slipping in the first round because of back problems, will also see time at centre.

Sullinger said he's ready for whatever coach Doc Rivers wants him to do and that his injury problems are behind him.

"Honestly, I don't have any back problems. It is what it is -- it's just playing basketball now," said Sullinger, who called slipping to No. 21 in the draft a "blessing in disguise."

Ainge said Melo, a 7-foot Brazilian out of Syracuse, will be a project but has a huge upside.

"One of the few guys in all of college basketball who blocks shots and takes a charge. He guards the paint real well."

Melo said he heard from Garnett after the draft.

"He just said he's excited to teach me, and I'm excited to learn ... I'm a very coachable guy."

Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen (Photo: Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images)
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