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What comes next anyone’s guess

Offseason likely to include changes

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / June 18, 2010

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LOS ANGELES — As much as the Celtics have tried to block out the uncertainty of the offseason, dealing with what happens next is inevitable.

“We’re in for a long summer,’’ Rajon Rondo said before last night’s Game 7.

Signing a five-year, $55 million contract extension in November guaranteed that Rondo would be one of the Celtics’ primary pieces in what ultimately will be a period of transition. Ray Allen will be an unrestricted free agent July 1. Paul Pierce has a $21.5 million player option for 2010-11. Beyond Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace, the reserves will all be free agents. And now, Kendrick Perkins will be coming off knee injury.

“I can only control what I can control,’’ Rondo said. “It’s literally out of my control. They’ll make a decision when the time comes, but you can’t do anything until July 1. So at least I’ll have a couple days to think about it. Hopefully we can all come back, but that’s not going to happen.’’

Having seen teams be assembled and then deconstructed over the course of his career, Allen looked at potential change as merely part of the natural order of the league.

“I’ve been with other great players and I’ve been on teams with other great coaches,’’ Allen said. “You just always take solace in the fact that you do everything you possibly can to get yourself in a good situation and move forward, whether it’s in your current situation or if you have to move.’’

Still, the dynamic the Celtics built the past three seasons is uncommon, where superstars like Allen, Pierce, and Kevin Garnett were able to win championships as they aged, a young talent like Rondo emerged as an All-Star, and a revolving door of veterans, from P.J. Brown and Sam Cassell to Michael Finley and Wallace, found a place where their experience and mileage was welcome.

“This is a very tight, close-knit group,’’ Garnett said. “We’re grueling on each other, we can speak to each other in different ways. We interact with each other a lot. I haven’t been on a team to where, other than in ’08, to where guys were even closer. Believe it or not, that makes a huge difference.

“You know who you can trust. You know the guys you’re dealing with. You know his personality. It simplifies it a little more when you know who you’re doing it with and who you are and who the personality is versus not knowing.’’

Simply the best
No active player has won more championships than Kobe Bryant, only one active player (former teammate Shaquille O’Neal) has scored more points in his career, he will go down as one of the greatest Lakers ever, and Garnett believes he’s the best player in the game.

“Kobe is, period,’’ Garnett said. “I wouldn’t disagree with that. He makes his team go. He’s their life, does multiple things in the game, and every time you speak of Kobe, you speak of excellence, you think of excellence.’’

Garnett and Bryant are at the top of the list of players to make the jump from high school directly to the pros, along with Moses Malone. Bryant entered the league in 1996, a year after Garnett, and while many players flamed out after trying to make the same jump, the two of them adapted quickly to the rigors of the league, carving out careers that will land them in the Hall of Fame.

“He’s a class act,’’ Garnett said of Bryant. “Plays with a vengeance and tenaciousness. He’s well respected around the league. I can keep going and going.’’

Tough road
The Celtics’ playoff run couldn’t have been much tougher. They had to go through a Finals MVP in Dwyane Wade, the reigning two-time league MVP in LeBron James, and the reigning two-time defensive player of the year in Dwight Howard, just to get to Bryant and the defending champion Lakers. As the fourth seed in the East, they also had home-court advantage in just one series. “We played all the top seeds. We played the top three records in all of basketball,’’ said Pierce. “Yeah, it’s tough, but winning a championship is tough, so you’ve got to expect it.’’ . . . Beyond his size and experience, coach Doc Rivers said he decided to start Wallace in place of Perkins because “he’s old. I figured I’d play the oldest guys.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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