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Tony Allen (surgery), Cassell (trade) out

SAM CASSELLOpens roster spot SAM CASSELLOpens roster spot
By Frank Dell'Apa and Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / February 18, 2009
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The Celtics have gone from being top-heavy in guards to being short in the backcourt after trading Sam Cassell yesterday and announcing that Tony Allen will undergo thumb surgery today.

Cassell's departure opens a roster slot that the team could fill with a trade by tomorrow's 3 p.m. league deadline or with a free agent or 10-day contract signing.

Allen's absence through the remainder of the regular season compels the Celtics to strongly consider adding a player, but president Danny Ainge indicated that no moves are imminent and the team will remain intact, at least for tomorrow's game at Utah.

Cassell, 39, a 16-year NBA veteran who has not played this season, was dealt to the Sacramento Kings for a heavily protected 2015 second-round pick and cash considerations.

The trade, said Ainge, "creates flexibility if a player be comes available."

Asked if Allen's injury would lead him to go after another guard, Ainge said, "I don't think that changes anything we're doing or changes our mind-set.

"We like our team, depth, and talent. If a trade comes where we can improve our team, we will consider it. But we have nothing imminent."

Cassell still has interest in playing and has coaching aspirations as well. But a source close to him said he wasn't interested in playing for the Kings since they aren't a playoff-caliber team. They are expected to waive him.

The Sacramento Bee reported that the cash involved in the Cassell deal was about $500,000, and that the Kings made about $340,000 on the trade.

In addition to a scoring guard in light of Allen's absence, another need for the Celtics would be a big man. While Ainge praised reserves Glen Davis and Leon Powe, both are considered undersized at less than 6 feet 10 inches. Patrick O'Bryant, a 7-foot center, rarely plays.

Free agent big men available include Robert Horry, who is expected to stay retired, Michael Doleac, Othella Harrington, and ex-Celtic Scot Pollard. The Celtics also could sign an NBA Development League player to a 10-day contract.

"Refining our bench is what we're trying to accomplish," said Ainge. "We have big-money guys that our team is built around and are not trading. Anything we do would be to solidify the bench."

Allen was injured during practice before the Celtics started their current road trip with wins at New Orleans and Dallas last week. Rivers said that when he was a player, he sustained a similar thumb injury during the offseason.

" 'Gatekeeper's Thumb,' they called it," Rivers said. "I don't know what a gatekeeper is - back in the day, a lot of them got hurt. It took quite a while [to heal]. When someone told me four weeks, I know it takes longer than that."

The Celtics will be counting on Gabe Pruitt and Brian Scalabrine (who returned to practice for the first time since sustaining a concussion late last month) to provide a spark off the bench, but they do not have a backup for Paul Pierce to defend against bigger guards such as LeBron James.

"As far as depth on the bench, Tony might have been the one guy you couldn't lose, and we lost him," said Rivers. "Now, we're really hoping Scal can come back. If he can't come back right away, then we're in a mess, no doubt."

Ainge said, "Tony has been injured many times before. We have a lot of guys who can play. Scal's back healthy now, Gabe has been playing well, Billy [Walker] can play, J.R. [Giddens] can play."

Giddens will remain with the Utah Flash in the D League.

"We have 12 players," Ainge said. "Why do we need 13 players? They can't even dress."

Pruitt's playing time is likely to increase as the Celtics meet the Jazz tomorrow in Salt Lake City, then visit Phoenix, Denver, and the Los Angeles Clippers.

"Gabe has been getting more time and playing well," Ainge said. "In some ways, he's our best perimeter defender, against some guys. He doesn't deal with the big, strong body of some guys. We definitely thought he could be a great defender. He's long and athletic and has great speed.

"He hasn't always been a great defender, but he has the potential to be."

Though he didn't play this season, Cassell averaged 4.5 points and 1.2 assists in 12.6 minutes per game during the 2008 playoffs, helping the Celtics win their 17th NBA title.

"I thanked Sam for what he has done helping our young guys, sharing knowledge, and being a part of our team," Ainge said.

This story was reported by Marc J. Spears in Boston and Frank Dell'Apa in Salt Lake City.

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