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Land of the free (agents)

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff  June 30, 2009 02:36 PM

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It starts in house, literally and figuratively.

The Celtics will approach NBA free agency, which begins at midnight tonight, by looking internally and deciding who they'd like to bring back from last year's team. Eddie House exercised his $2.86 million player option and is returning, but Glen Davis, Leon Powe, Stephon Marbury, and Mikki Moore, are all eligible to turn into pumpkins (and field offers from other teams) at midnight tonight. Celtics GM Danny Ainge has already said the team will make a qualifying offer to Davis, a restricted free agent, meaning the Celtics would have seven days to match an offer made by any other team to the bruising forward.

With Marbury and Moore, both unrestricted, there remains a question of mutual interest, or lack thereof (Marbury has said he'd like to come back to Boston for a "reasonable" offer). With Powe, who is restricted, the question is health.

But while Davis is the remaining internal key to free agency for Boston, the Celtics will surely be exploring the market to fill any holes on their roster. Having only added Lester Hudson with the No. 58 pick in this year's draft, the Celtics figure to be active in at least exploring the market. Note, however, that the Celtics are projected to be in luxury tax territory by about $2 million if they bring back only their current free agents. But that doesn't factor in any potential cap space freeing trades, or the willingness of this current ownership group to spend money on a winning team.

With all the caveats out of the way, here are some names the Celtics might (or should) at least kick the tires on:

Rasheed Wallace: His attitude problems have been well documented, but when Wallace brings it, he's one of the most versatile big men in the game. Wallace seemed to quit on his team during last season's playoffs, a four-game sweep at the hands of the Cavs. But his name has been surfacing all over the place.

"The Celtics want him and he wants the Celtics," Comcast Sportsnet's Gary Tanguay said last night, sounding pretty certain Wallace would land in Boston.

We'll see whether Tanguay's prognostication comes true.

Grant Hill: Doc Rivers coached Hill in Orlando in what can now be considered another era. Hill's time as one of the league's preeminent players ended long ago, but he's capable of providing veteran leadership in a bench role. If you can believe it, Hill started in 68 games last season for Phoenix and averaged 12 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.3 assists.

Marcin Gortat: Unintentionally sticking with former Magic players here. He's restricted, so the Magic would have the right to match any offer, but Dwight Howard's backup has proven he's more than capable of playing a key role (3.8 points, 4.5 rebounds) in the middle off the bench. Think the Celtics would have preferred him to Mikki Moore last season?

Chris Anderson: He's unrestricted, he's turned his life around, and he's the consummate hustle player. He's also a marketing director's dream. Wherever he ends up, and the price is likely to be high, they'll surely sell a lot of Birdman gear.

Anderson Varejao: Another energy guy. While his performance against Dwight Howard and the Orlando front line was disheartening in the playoffs, Varejao just oozes intensity. He's the guy the other team's fans hate (in the Joakim Noah mold). And that's why he'd be a great fit (though his almost $6 million salary could price him out of Boston).

Matt Barnes: Barnes (10.2 points, 5.5 rebounds for Phoenix) fills the athletic forward role much like Michael Pietrus did for the Magic this season. Is he the James Posey replacement the Celtics have been looking for?

Anthony Parker: Parker is another possibility in the athletic small forward role. Entering his sixth NBA season, Parker averaged 10.7 points, 4 rebounds, and 3.7 assists for the Raptors last season.

Dahntay Jones: The former Duke guard was a contributor in Denver's playoff run last season, averaging 7 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. The Celtics drafted Jones 20th overall in 2003, and a return trip to Boston would probably be affordable for both sides if there was mutual interest.

Marquis Daniels: It's looking like the Pacers won't pick up the $7.5 million option on Daniels for next season, making him a free agent. Still, the versatile shooting guard might demand a higher salary than the Celtics have to give.

Ron Artest: This one is probably a stretch (Artest made $7.4 million last season and is likely to demand just as much for next year), but the Rockets might have to rebuild if Yao can't go. Artest would be filthy as a lockdown defender off the bench.

Jason Kidd: He's rumored to be visiting New York on Wednesday. Would Kidd accept a backup role to Rajon Rondo? If Rondo is traded, could Kidd handle the full-time point guard duties on a championship team? Lots of questions, but lots of fun to talk about, too.

Mike Bibby: He's Eddie House's brother-in-law. Might the Celtics sign one family member over another? Bibby's a better ball handler than House, but House's shooting has been unreal the last two seasons.

This list is by no means complete (colleague Marc Spears has another list here). Answer our survey below or leave a comment for who you'd like the Celtics to go after.

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