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Allen opts to stay with Celtics

Guard exercises his player option

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / June 8, 2011

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Ray Allen yesterday exercised the player option on the two-year, $20 million contract he signed last summer, returning to the Celtics for a fifth season. The decision guarantees that the Big Three will return next season. Allen never gave the organization reason to believe he wouldn’t pick up the option, and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge had spoken about next season as if Allen’s return was a certainty. But Ainge said yesterday that Allen’s return wasn’t necessarily an afterthought as the team reconstructs for next season.

“I was hopeful that Ray would want to come back and I got the impression in my exit interview with him that he would want to come back, but you never know,’’ Ainge said. “I guess nothing’s a foregone conclusion with these things, but it was an assumption that we thought would happen and we hoped to have happen.’’

At 35, Allen remains a model for high production (16.5 points per game, 49.1 percent shooting). He played a team-high 80 games for the second straight season. He made his 10th All-Star Game appearance in 14 seasons. He and Paul Pierce dueled in the 3-point shootout but were upstaged by Heat specialist James Jones. Allen shot the 3-pointer as well as he ever has in his career (44.4 percent), tying the franchise record for 3-point field goal percentage set by Eddie House in 2008-09.

Allen’s biggest milestone came in February, when he drilled three 3-pointers in a loss to the Lakers to pass Reggie Miller as the NBA’s all-time 3-point king. Miller, who was at TD Garden calling the game for TNT, congratulated Allen with an embrace after the record-breaking shot. Allen finished the season with 2,612 3-pointers

“He defies all odds already,’’ Ainge said. “He’s had an unbelievable career but he had a spectacular year last year. So he just keeps playing at an amazing rate.’’

The Celtics intend to put younger, more athletic pieces around their aging core players next season.

Like Allen, Kevin Garnett, 35, will be in the final year of the three-year, $60 million extension he signed in 2007. Pierce, 33, has three years left on the $60 million contract he signed last summer.

Ainge has floated the idea of either Pierce or Allen coming off the bench and possibly starting Jeff Green to get more minutes for the young swingman they acquired at the trade deadline.

Allen has been open to the idea. Still, he also looks at himself as a barometer for how the team’s offense is flowing. For instance, the Celtics were 18-4 when Allen scored at least 20 points last season.

His consistency is what makes him so valuable.

“You have to be surprised every year because there are very few guys doing it,’’ Ainge said. “You see Ray Allen, Steve Nash, Grant Hill are sort of three guys right now that are continuing to play at a high level. It tells you something about those guys.’’

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

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