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Hard Celtic press picks off Wallace

By Marc J. Spears and Frank Dell'Apa
Globe Staff / July 6, 2009
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The Celtics pulled out all the stops when their campaign to sign free agent forward Rasheed Wallace started last week. And the tactics paid off as Wallace committed to sign with the Celtics, a league source said yesterday.

Wallace is expected to receive a two-year deal at the midlevel exception (approximately $5.6 million to $5.8 million).

All-Stars Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce, plus president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, coach Doc Rivers, and owner Wyc Grousbeck visited Wallace in his suburban Detroit home last week. After the three-hour meeting, Wallace, 34, indicated he also would be considering overtures from Orlando and San Antonio. But Wallace canceled those meetings, informing the Celtics of his intention to accept their offer Wednesday, the first day free agents are eligible to sign.

“Once [Wallace] had a chance to reflect on everything, and realizing what his objectives are, he just decided this was the best fit for him, all the way around,’’ said Bill Strickland, Wallace’s agent. “He has always wanted to be on a team that plays with a team effort, and Boston won the championship with a team like that. Boston has three potential Hall of Famers - Rasheed has played with a lot of talent, but not with a concentration of talent like this.

“He made the decision, and part of it is that, if things are relatively the same financially, it turned on basketball considerations. Everything was going to be more or less the same [in terms of salary], so he looked at the basketball considerations.’’

Wallace’s relationship with Garnett and the Celtics’ history were key factors in the recruitment.

“The group that came in - Danny and everyone was quite thorough in bringing to his attention some things he already understood,’’ Strickland said. “He gained a greater appreciation for the fans in Boston and it will be an interesting change, to have them cheering for him instead of booing.

“He was more concerned with the team, but the organization showed a lot of class. They came in and made him feel comfortable.’’

Asked if he advised Wallace to consider other offers, Strickland said, “He’ll have to speak to that. But that’s the Rasheed I know, when he makes up his mind . . .

“There will be kindred spirits on the floor. He is known as an emotional person and has received technicals for being vocal. And now there is another player [Garnett] on the team who is equally intense and I think it’s just going to be interesting and rewarding for the fans to see KG and Rasheed together, particularly on the defensive end, along with [Kendrick] Perkins. This instantly makes them a better defensive team.

“Rasheed has always been a good teammate and an unselfish player. Any initial misgivings the Celtics had about being able to share the ball [disappeared] when they won the championship, and he fits into that. It’s a good fit. If they stay healthy, they will be a significant factor in the East. I’m excited for him.’’

The players will welcome Wallace, according to Allen.

“He makes us better on both ends of the floor,’’ Allen said.

The move could allow Orlando and San Antonio to increase their offers to Celtics forward Glen Davis, a restricted free agent. Ainge has said Boston will make a qualifying offer to Davis.

The Celtics also have interest in forward Grant Hill. They could offer Hill a $1.9 million biannual exception.

Hill, 36, could receive better offers from teams such as the Knicks, who are guided by Mike D’Antoni, his coach in Phoenix during the 2007-08 season.

Hill was limited by injuries when playing for Rivers in Orlando from 2000-01 through 2003-04, performing in 4, 14, 29, and 67 games (Rivers was fired 11 games into the 2003-04 season). Last season, Hill played in 82 games for the first time in his career, totaling 2,445 minutes, his most playing time since the 1999-2000 season with Detroit.

Hill would be expected to be a reserve behind Pierce and also could fill in at shooting guard.

Marc J. Spears can be reached at mspears@globe.com. Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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