Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said today he was confident Jeff Green would be back in a Celtics uniform next season.
“I feel good about Jeff and where he’s at,” said Ainge. “He wants to be back and we want him back … We’re going to enter a contract with him, hopefully by the end of the moratorium.”
NBA free agents cannot sign contracts until the end of a moratorium on July 11, and Ainge said he expected Green would sign with the team at that time. Green missed the entire 2011-12 season after doctors discovered he had an aortic aneurysm that required surgery. He’s now working out and working his way into basketball shape. Green was seen with the team several times after the surgery even though the Celtics had voided his contract and he was technically not a part of the organization.
“When he got traded to the Celtics he loved his experience,” said Ainge. “He wanted to prove that he’s a better player than he played when he got here. He really wants to make it work. Through the whole discovery, to his surgery and his rehab, it was something that was motivating him to continue. He wanted to go back to Boston.”
When asked what his top priority was, Ainge sounded like he was assuming Green was a done deal, mentioning Ray Allen and Brandon Bass as Boston’s top targets.
“Those are the two guys we would like to see back,” said Ainge. “We’re working toward that.”
Ainge also said that he intends to work on deals with role players such as Mickael Pietrus and Keyon Dooling, but that his priorities are with front-of-the-rotation players for now.
“You have to work on your best five to seven players first,” said Ainge.
Ainge said the Celtics are trying to use the full mid-level exception to sign a player, which would put the Celtics at a hard salary cap of $74 million. He wouldn’t comment on a report that the team is interested in free-agent center Marcus Camby.
If Allen were to return, the Celtics’ Big Three of Allen, Garnett, and Paul Pierce would be entering their sixth season together. Many gave them a three-year window. Ainge had said in the past that he didn’t want to repeat the mistake that the Celtics made by not breaking up the original Big Three of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish in the early 90s. Ainge went back and addressed those comments today.
“These guys have proven that they still can play,” said Ainge. “And then you look at the alternatives. The reason we haven’t made trades isn’t because we haven’t looked at possible opportunities to re-tool our team in the future. Those opportunities aren’t there. And our guys continue to show how good they are on the court. So we’re going to let it keep going.
“Never have I doubted if they could play. And never have I doubted whether they can contribute. I think the only question is, can they contribute to the level that they once were? I think we all can look at our Big Three and say if they went to play with some of the top teams in the league, how good they would be, and how much they would help those teams. The only question in Boston is, can they carry a team? So we need help. We need Jeff Green to be a good player. We need Rajon Rondo to be what he is. So as those guys, as their roles evolve from playing 38 minutes to 25 minutes, they can contribute like that.”