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With veteran presence, Celtics could score again

Despite hearing three weeks ago the Celtics might acquire Ray Allen, Celtics coach Doc Rivers hasn't thought much about how his reconfigured team will play.

Rivers said the Celtics "will not be a slow-down team. The coach added that he "doesn't know if [the Celtics] will be an uptempo team."

When asked how he envisioned the Celtics, executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge said that was "an October question." The responses hint that remodeling remains.

Ainge hopes to complete more deals before training camp starts because the Celtics do not figure to be a big player in the free agent market. The addition of Allen increased the Celtics' payroll to approximately $63.4 million for the 13 players under contract. With the salary cap projected at $57 million, the Celtics have the mid-level exception worth approximately $5 million and the $1 million exception (worth almost $2 million) to spend.

But don't expect the Celtics to dole out a lot of cash. In recent offseasons, the Celtics have let the purse strings loose only to lure Dan Dickau and Brian Scalabrine in the summer of 2005. Look for the Celtics to use Theo Ratliff's expiring contract, Gerald Green, Tony Allen and possibly, though unlikely, Al Jefferson as chips in trade negotiations.

If the roster stays as constituted, how will the Celtics look next season? The opening night starting lineup would be Rajon Rondo at point guard, Ray Allen at shooting guard, Paul Pierce at small forward, Jefferson at power forward, and Kendrick Perkins at center. Beyond the starters, the only seeming certainty is that the Celtics should score a lot of points.

"I like the fit, but it takes time," said Rivers. "But I think having Ray as a veteran, the [adjustment] time will be cut short. We want the Paul and the Ray part to fit first obviously, then the Paul, Ray, and Al part to fit second. Then, everyone else just has to fit in."

In the 24 hours since the draft night trade that sent the No. 5 pick (Jeff Green), Delonte West, and Wally Szczerbiak to Seattle for Allen and the No. 35 pick (Glen Davis), the prevailing question is how Pierce and Allen will work together. Pierce and Allen both need the ball in their hands to be at their best, and Pierce seems more comfortable in the role of shooting guard. In comments after the trade, Allen said his best attribute was his ability to adjust to situations and teammates, and recognized the Celtics remain Pierce's team.

Rivers is concerned Pierce and Allen might "over pass" in an effort to showcase unselfishness. The coach said he will focus first on making Pierce and Allen as aggressive as possible, then figure out how they best complement each other.

Pierce has long wanted an All-Star veteran by his side. With the arrival of Allen, Ainge and Co. heeded Pierce's request. The vote of support could bring out the best in Pierce and extend his prime, since the captain won't have to carry the bulk of the scoring burden.

"Ray is a game finisher," said Ainge. "What [the trade] does is it allows us to never have to go through the long scoring droughts that we typically go through when we don't have Paul in or when Paul is not fresh. The sharing of offensive responsibility is huge. Good teams don't have one guy that has to come out of the gates and start the game and still finish the game and in the third quarter carry minutes for scoring binges. It's hard to maintain that pace every single night. With two guys that can fill up box scores and that are experienced and have done it in big games, I don't see how they can't play well together."

But the biggest beneficiaries may be the three other starters, as well as key reserves Tony Allen and Green. When Allen and Pierce take the floor together, they will garner the utmost attention of opposing defenses. The floor should open up for whoever else shares the court with the two All-Stars.

"I actually think this helps [Jefferson] because I don't think you can trap," said Rivers. "Last year, when Paul was on the floor, they didn't trap off of him, but they trapped off of everyone else. [Allen] adds another guy that you absolutely can't leave. It adds another post passer. I think Al is going to have far more room than he's ever had with those two guys on the floor.

"Perk will be a guy that will benefit because they'll trap off of Perk at times and he'll be the guy left underneath getting dunks. It helps Perk, but I think it helps Al more.

"[Rondo] is a drive-and-kick guy. When Rajon drives now with Paul and Ray Allen on both sides, their guys aren't leaving and Rondo has more areas to pass."

Although Rivers likes what he saw on tape of second-round selection Gabe Pruitt, he expects the Celtics will look to acquire another point guard. Rivers believes Sebastian Telfair can be a point guard "if he focused on being a point guard and not a scorer." But the Celtics are stocked with scorers. Defense, however, remains a scarce commodity.

As Rivers pointed out, if the Celtics are "hustling and get rebounds and play some defense, you can get as many shots as you want."

Shira Springer can be reached at springer@globe.com.

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