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Allen a hot topic

Ainge fielding calls on his availability

By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / February 10, 2010

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As the NBA’s Feb. 18 trade deadline approaches and the Celtics continue to show they may not be capable of winning a title as currently constructed, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is fielding an increasing amount of calls, especially on shooting guard Ray Allen.

Allen has an expiring $19.7 million contract that, for the right team, could create a large amount of cap space this summer. According to NBA sources, Ainge is not shopping Allen and he told his veteran guard that much in a conversation last week.

But those same sources said Ainge is listening to offers on Allen, whose play has declined this season and whose contract will become increasingly enticing in the next eight days.

Ainge has to determine whether this current team is capable of making a title run and at the same time prevent it from getting too old while still having three major contracts - Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce - on the books.

Allen is shooting a career-low 33.8 percent from the 3-point line and logging more minutes than he has in any of his three seasons in Boston. Allen has maintained that he wants to remain here and realizes he likely would have to take a significant pay cut as a free agent.

If the Celtics trade Allen, the only way he could return is on a mid-level exception deal - approximately $5.8 million - because the Celtics still would be over the salary cap. According to the sources, Ainge is not eager to move Allen and would do so only if he could get a proven scorer with a manageable contract who is considerably younger.

A possible trade partner could be Sacramento, with shooting guard Kevin Martin, who is signed for three more years as part of a five-year, $55 million package. Martin has been an awkward fit for the Kings since the emergence of rookie Tyreke Evans. It is unclear whether Martin can mesh with a score-first point guard such as Evans.

But acquiring Martin might be contingent on accepting the contract of Andres Nocioni, who has two more years on his deal. According to Celtics sources, the organization is not interested in taking on “bad contracts’’ that could hurt salary cap space.

Also, the Kings are seeking a legitimate center to play alongside cornerstone Jason Thompson and aren’t eager to deal Martin if they can’t get one in return.

Meanwhile, ESPN.com reported that the Celtics were talking with the Charlotte Bobcats about sending Glen Davis to North Carolina for reserve point guard D.J. Augustin.

According to NBA sources, the talks have not reached the serious stage, and Ainge told the Globe Saturday that the team is satisfied with its frontcourt depth.

Since Davis has returned from his 27-game absence because of a fractured right thumb, Shelden Williams has been relegated to garbage time. Since Dec. 20, Williams has played in 9 of 23 games; before that, he had played in 25 of 26.

Because Davis just signed a contract extension last summer, he is a base-year compensation player, meaning the Celtics could take back only half of the $3 million Davis earns this season. The Celtics would have to include another player in the deal because Augustin earns $2.37 million in the second year of his rookie contract.

The Celtics would like to add a more natural point guard to the roster because they struggle without Rajon Rondo on the floor. Coach Doc Rivers has yet to try Marquis Daniels at the backup point, as originally designed, because Daniels missed 29 games with a torn ligament in his left wrist.

The Bobcats are looking for a true power forward so they can bring the light-rebounding Boris Diaw off the bench.

While Davis has irked Rivers this season - from his injury from a fight with a friend to yelling an obscene comment at a Detroit fan to declaring that he wanted to change his nickname to “Uno Uno’’ - it is unlikely the Celtics would give up on his potential for a backup guard.

Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com.

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