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Celtics have target

Wallace’s agent: Mutual interest

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By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / July 2, 2009
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WALTHAM - Danny Ainge was on the telephone at his HealthPoint office when the NBA free agent market opened at midnight yesterday. Among Ainge’s first calls was to Bill Strickland, agent for center-forward Rasheed Wallace.

“I made some calls,’’ said Ainge, the Celtics’ president of basketball operations. “Rasheed is a guy we have interest in. We made calls with quite a few free agents’ representatives late last night from my office to let them know we have interest. We contacted 10 free agents and tried to get some feedback in what they are looking for and their interest long term. But that’s about it. Mostly for something down the road.’’

The Celtics’ interest in Wallace is not for the long term, though. Wallace, 34, might be the most intriguing of free agent candidates, his relationship with Celtics forward Kevin Garnett a possible advantage.

Strickland confirmed the Celtics’ contact with Wallace with a text message: “The interest is mutual.’’

Asked if Wallace, who earned $13 million with the Pistons last season, could join the Celtics as a mid-level exception, Strickland said: “We will see how things work out.’’

Charlotte, Cleveland, Orlando, and San Antonio have also shown interest in Wallace.

Ainge said he did not contact any players directly, nor has he made contract offers. Ainge said he has been on the receiving end of many more inquiries from agents in recent days than he has proferred.

“We’ll just continue to stay in contact with free agents to see if there is something we can do,’’ Ainge said. “That could take some time. Free agents are talking to several teams. I don’t anticipate anything dramatic happening any time soon. We have plenty of time left.

“We have an interest in a lot of free agents, on different levels. We have different needs. I think everybody’s trying to get a feel to where the market is. I think a lot of players start on July 1st with big dollar signs in their eyes, and then some of them get it, and some of them don’t. And some of them come looking for anything later in the summer.

“So, it will be interesting to see how the summer goes. There’s always guys who have big dollar signs who don’t get what they’re hoping for. That’s their agents’ job, to ask for whatever they can, and settle for what’s available.’’

Asked if the economic climate will affect the free agent market, Ainge said: “I’m not sure it’s that much different, but it might be. I think the whole pool is going to be less this year. But, again, there are going to be some that get paid and some that don’t.

“I think the initial indication of the market is you see a lot of guys expected to opt out of their contracts didn’t, and that’s a pretty good indication there might not be the circumstances or situations available to them they hoped that might have been there before.’’

According to Andy Miller, agent for Tyronne Lue - a reserve guard for Orlando who is close to Garnett - and forward Antonio McDyess, Ainge has expressed interest in both players. McDyess was expected to return to the Pistons, but began checking other options because Detroit signed Charlie Villanueva, who agreed in principle to a contract yesterday, according to the Associated Press.

Lue was on the Celtics’ list last year before Eddie House signed. House exercised a player option on the second year of his contract Tuesday.

“It’s great to have Eddie back,’’ Ainge said. “Eddie’s been a big part of our success the last two years. He’s a fan favorite, he’s a favorite of his teammates, they trust him. Shooting is a premium in this league and Eddie is a guy that would be tough to replace. Game 7, on the road, in Cleveland - KG would throw the ball to Eddie, Paul [Pierce] would throw the ball to Eddie. They trust him and his shooting and that’s what he does. He’s a great, great shooter.’’

Marc J. Spears of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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