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Wallace gets 3-year deal from Celtics

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By Frank Dell’Apa and Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / July 9, 2009
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ORLANDO, Fla. - The Celtics are making room on the court for a foursome.

Two years after Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett joined Paul Pierce, signaling a return to the franchise’s championship-contending days, Rasheed Wallace will be introduced as a Celtic today at a Waltham, Mass., news conference.

Wallace finalized a three-year midlevel-exception contract yesterday that pays $5.8 million next season less than a week after a three-hour meeting with the Celtics’ Big Three, plus president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, owner Wyc Grousbeck, and coach Doc Rivers at his suburban Detroit home. This was an extraordinary campaign to recruit Wallace to the Celtics’ cause, the team’s commitment to winning apparently the deciding factor.

“I just think when you have Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce, that made the biggest impression on him,’’ Rivers said. “Me and Danny and Wyc went and I did a lot of talking, but I don’t think anything I said swayed Rasheed Wallace. I thought the other thing is that we didn’t talk about but one thing, and that’s winning next year. We didn’t talk about getting along, you know, working it out. We made it clear, we’re trying to win another title and that’s the only reason we’re trying to put things together, and I think he liked that talk.’’

Wallace, his wife, Fatima, three sons, and daughter were expected to arrive in Boston yesterday.

“He’s extremely excited,’’ said Bill Strickland, Wallace’s agent. “We’ll see it [today].’’

Said Rivers, “Rasheed has won the title and he came close one other time, so clearly he wants to do that again. Most of the veteran free agents, they look at your team, and if you have a chance to win then I think you have a chance to get them. And I think that’s the reason, even over the Big Three. He looked at our team and he looked at the other teams and he liked our chances - and I hope he’s right.’’

Wallace, who helped Detroit win the 2004 championship and reach the Finals the next season, has averaged 15 points playing for four teams since entering the league in 1995. Wallace is a four-time All-Star, his last appearance in 2007-08 as a replacement for Garnett. Though Wallace’s career has been marked by controversy, the Celtics do not consider that a problem.

“All I know is KG, Ray, Paul, [Rajon] Rondo, everybody is excited to have him,’’ Ainge said. “We put a strong effort in to try to get him and feel very fortunate to have gotten him. He’ll be fun to watch. He’s a good fit for us, offensively, defensively; his personality fits with our guys.’’

Said Rivers, “Anybody’s personality can fit if you’re there for the right reasons. If you’re not . . . I think everybody on our team is there for the right reasons. I’ve never thought personalities were difficult to mesh when everybody is trying to win.’’

Wallace is not expected to be in the starting lineup, which includes Rondo and center Kendrick Perkins, but Rivers said no determination has been made.

“He gives us a dimension we didn’t have,’’ Rivers said. “The extra shooter is the biggest part, and the extra shooter that can guard a [center] makes it even [better]. His impact is huge because it really helps other guys. I think it will help Kevin, it will help Perk, and I think it will really, really help Rondo. Because in the playoffs, when teams decide to help off of Rondo, they use Perk as the other guy they can zone up with. When we go at times with Kevin and Rasheed on the floor, if you’re going to help off of Rondo, you’re going to leave Ray, Paul, Kevin, or Rasheed - and that’s difficult. And if you don’t, now Rondo becomes more effective, which I think is going to be the case.

“Like I’ve always said, we’ll get to camp and work it out. I envision - I don’t know if we’ll change our starting five or not - but we’re going to put our best starting five on the floor. I’m going to wait and see how his body looks. It is a long season, but we know our guys. I don’t know Rasheed, yet, in that way, so that will be something I’ll have to find out as the year goes on. We’ve done a pretty good job of pacing, but if you have injuries, all of that stuff goes out of the window.’’

Wallace, 34, provides the Celtics with another intense inside defender, a center-forward who can shut down the lane alongside Garnett or Perkins. Offensively, he is effective on the post and a major threat from the perimeter. And Wallace has made clear his priorities - team success over individual statistics.

“He’s going to be a kindred spirit similar to Kevin Garnett,’’ Strickland said. “He brings an edge and an attitude that was present in Detroit when he won a championship. He brings a competitive skill set, experience, and a sense of team workmanship. He brings a lot to the table outside of what he does on the floor. He has professionalism in the locker room. His former teammates have always been supportive of him. There are a lot of things about him that I think people will be surprised about.’’

Wallace’s time in Detroit was “well spent,’’ Strickland said. “Championship well-earned and deserved. There comes a time in everyone’s career where there may be a need to move on. Rasheed has done his thing in Detroit. He is in a new, invigorating environment.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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