Draft Day Trade Leaves Celtics with Little to Dangle as Bait (07-08)

July 1, 2007

The NBA's annual free agent derby starts this week, and Danny Ainge - Theo Ratliff's expiring contract in hand - will be in the middle of the scrum, attempting to add one more veteran to his beleaguered team.

As evidenced by Thursday's trade for Ray Allen, the Celtics are serious about their desire to be major offseason players.

They probably don't have enough to work a sign-and-trade deal for Chauncey Billups, who may end up re-signing with Detroit anyway.

After parting with the No. 5 pick, Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak to land Allen, the C's may not even have enough to make a deal work for a quality minor star like Charlotte's Gerald Wallace, much less a super start like Kevin Garnett.

But Ainge has long been known to kick every tire on the lot, and he will be out there until the late hours this summer, too.

By trading for Allen, Ainge may have inadvertently affected the dynamic of another major free agent - Rashard Lewis, Seattle's prolific forward.

Roughly a month removed from his 28th birthday, Lewis is another example of a high school draft pick who needed time to hit his stride. Lewis just completed his ninth season in the league - all as a Sonic - and has averaged more than 20 points each of the last three.

He has a great offensive touch, but often has to be coaxed by his coaches into the post. Nate Robinson used to demand that he post up for 10 touches a game, just to remind Lewis of where he belonged.

But now that Allen's gone, Lewis may be more of a goner than the folks in Seattle - soon to be Oklahoma City - thought. Even Lewis, who had publicly waffled about staying or going, may now be convinced that new GM Sam Presti isn't committed to a new contract.

``I'm not sure that he ever really was serious about going back,'' one general manager said last week.

Allen apparently agrees.

``Now that I'm no longer there, I'm not even sure that Rashard is going to want to come back,'' Allen told the Tacoma News-Tribune last week. ``He wants to win and you almost think they are starting to rebuild with all those young players. I'm not sure Rashard is going to want to be a big brother to all those young guys.

``That is the decision he has to make. I know Rashard didn't like losing. . . . He has the chance now to make a decision that is going to affect his next five to 10 years.''

That doesn't necessarily mean he will be joining Allen.

But the Celtics will have a full dance card.

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