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Murphy joining Celtics

By Julian Benbow and Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / March 2, 2011

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Just days after overhauling their second unit with a flurry of trades, the Celtics continued their late-season dealing yesterday by taking Troy Murphy off the buyout market, bolstering their frontcourt with a nine-year veteran who can rebound and spread the floor with his long-range shooting.

Murphy, 30, who was traded from New Jersey to Golden State and then bought out by the Warriors, agreed to sign with the Celtics for the veteran’s minimum. He wavered between Boston and Miami, the top two suitors and also the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, and he went with the Celtics because of their tradition and recent NBA Finals history.

“It was a very tough decision,’’ said Murphy. “The Celtics and Heat are both great organizations that really do play the right way.

“Going to the Celtics, I feel like I could help them, being another piece that could help them. They have had a lot of success over the past couple of years in the playoffs and I look forward to being out there.’’

The Celtics were still waiting for Murphy to clear waivers, so team president Danny Ainge declined to comment.

Another move could be on the horizon, as the Celtics have two roster spots open, not counting the spot currently filled by Chris Johnson, signed to a 10-day contract last week.

They may have their sights on Corey Brewer, who was bought out by the Knicks Monday after being traded from Minnesota as part of the Carmelo Anthony deal with Denver. Brewer, a 6-foot-9-inch swingman, was taken by the Timberwolves with the seventh pick in the 2007 draft, and though he is a below-average shooter, he is coveted for his defense at the wing spot.

Dallas, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City are among the teams also interested in Brewer.

The Heat had strong interest in Murphy, a 6-11 forward who has shot 39.1 percent on 3-pointers in his career and averaged 8.5 rebounds a game. Murphy’s agent, Dan Fegan, said Murphy wrestled with the decision between Miami — with its new Big Three of Chris Bosh, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade — and Boston, which won a title in 2008 and went to the Finals last year behind Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce.

“It’s rare when a player is in a position to choose between two teams and not make a mistake,’’ Fegan said. “Both Miami and Boston are great situations, and in the end, Troy went with his heart. Or I guess I should say his shamrock.’’

Murphy has finished in the top 10 in rebounding in five of his nine seasons. In 2008-09, he was third in the league in 3-point percentage (45 percent). After a strong 2009-10 season in Indiana (14.6 ppg, 10.2 rpg), he was traded to New Jersey in a four-way deal that involved the Rockets and Hornets.

Because of health issues (strained back, sore right foot, viral infection) and a wealth of players vying for minutes at his position, Murphy’s production plummeted in New Jersey.

He has played in just 18 games this season, averaging 3.6 points and 4.2 rebounds, missing 19 of his 23 3-point attempts. He hasn’t played since the Nets’ 97-77 loss to Washington Jan. 7.

“I was injured in the summer, before the season started, and it kind of got me behind the 8-ball a little bit for training camp,’’ he said. “They’re a young team and going in one direction, and they wanted to play those younger guys and I really didn’t fit into their plans. So I’m just happy to be moving on and happy to be coming up to Boston.’’

The Nets traded him to Golden State last week along with a second-round pick for center Dan Gadzuric and forward Brandan Wright, with a buyout a foregone conclusion.

The Celtics now have a frontcourt full of shooters after giving up Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to get Jeff Green and Nenad Kristic and now adding Murphy. Green can play both forward spots, while Krstic can stretch the floor from the center position with his shooting ability.

The Celtics have had mixed results with late-season signings the last few years. They picked up Michael Finley last season, Stephon Marbury and Mikki Moore in 2009, and cashed in with Sam Cassell and P.J. Brown in their championship season of 2008.

“I’m beyond thrilled,’’ Murphy said. “This team has had success in the playoffs, had deep playoff runs, and when I was looking at teams to go to, I was looking at one that could make a deep playoff run and I’m just excited to be part of that and very excited to be coming up.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com; Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com.

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