Celtics’ Allen Exercises Option for Next Season

BOSTON (AP) — Ray Allen has exercised his option to remain with the Boston Celtics next season.

The decision announced by the team on Tuesday means the Big Three of Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will be together for one more season. Garnett has one year left on his contract and Pierce has three years remaining.

Coach Doc Rivers will be around for five more seasons, having agreed to a new contract after the Celtics were eliminated by the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Allen has spent four seasons as the Celtics shooting guard after being traded from Seattle. In 2007-08, the first season of the Big Three, the Celtics won their 17th NBA title.

In 15 NBA seasons, Allen has 22,286 points, 24th in league history. Last season, he set the NBA record for 3-point field goals made in a career at 2,612.

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Boston’s Murphy Waits to Help in ‘Exasperating’ Year

His to New Jersey originally excited him but subsequently resulted in frustration and outright exile from . The specter of hung over him like some Damoclean sword, as he was linked to a deal that was never made. He was told he would be sent to Detroit, another move that never occurred. That might have been the best thing that happened to him this season.

Traded in February back to his original team, the Warriors, he was quickly bought out and waived. Lottery-bound Golden State had no use for him. Then, on the open market, he listened to proposals from Miami and Boston — and chose the , who were down by 2-0 entering Saturday’s Game 3 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals against .

When asked Saturday about this season, Murphy said: “Exasperating. If you had told me it would have been like this, I would never have believed you.”

He also said he still would choose the Celtics even knowing now what he didn’t know then: that his team would be trailing Miami, and that he would be rendered to wallflower status at the most critical juncture of the season. He is not part of Coach ’s rotation and has yet to play against the Heat.

“You can’t look back,” Murphy said, choosing his words carefully after the morning shoot-around at the Celtics’ practice facility outside Boston. “You make a decision and you stick with it. I made the decision to come here, and it is what it is. I felt both teams had a chance to compete for a championship, and Boston made more sense to me at the time.

“There was a definite tug of war. They were two of the top teams in the league. It was a very tough decision.”

made the 6-foot-11 Murphy worth pursuing. In 2009-10, he averaged 14.6 points and 10.2 rebounds for Indiana, the fifth time he finished a season averaging double figures in those statistical categories. He was an excellent 3-point shooter for his size and had been a starter and contributor for most of his career.

That was certainly the expectation when the Nets acquired him from Indiana in a four-team, five-player trade last August. But Murphy, a native of Sparta, N.J., was soon hurt (back and foot injuries) and never fit in with the rebuilding Nets.

Soon, he was hearing his name mentioned almost daily in the trade talk involving Denver and Anthony, not because of his ability, but because his contract was needed to make the deal work.

“We thought there was a deal in the beginning of January, and I thought I was going to Detroit,” Murphy said. “I was told to stay home and wait a week for the deal to go through. It didn’t go through, but I still stayed home, and it went on like that.”

His last game with the Nets was Jan. 7. Then came a Feb. 23 deal to Golden State, the release by the Warriors on Feb. 28, and the subsequent signing with the Celtics on March 2. At the time, it looked like a brilliant stroke, for it was thought that Murphy would provide help for the Celtics in the playoffs.

But he sprained his right ankle in practice March 24 and he did not return until April 5. He has appeared in one playoff game — his first in 10 seasons — playing three minutes in the Celtics’ blowout Game 3 win over the in the first round.

“When he first got here, I’m not sure he was ready to play because he hadn’t played all year,” Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge said. “Then, he sprained his ankle. But since he has come back, I think he has looked very good. I know Doc has contemplated using him, but it’s tough with the depth we have. I know Troy is an option Doc believes in and trusts in.”

Rivers has given Murphy the treatment — Be Prepared — and likens Murphy’s situation to that of Nate Robinson in 2010. Like Murphy, Robinson was a part-timer, but Rivers maintained that Robinson would help them win a playoff game. He was right. Robinson played a huge role in the Celtics’ Game 4 victory over the in the N.B.A. finals.

But will that day ever come for the 31-year-old Murphy? He has no clue.

Asked whether he thought his first N.B.A. playoff experience would be different, Murphy said: “Yeah, I did. But I was coming into a tough situation, a veteran team that is pretty well set and a coach that has been with that group for a while. It’s tough to get minutes in the middle of the year. Doc is comfortable with a certain group of guys, and those are the guys he goes with. There’s nothing I can really do about that.”

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Celtics Hoping to Hold Serve at Home

He’s going to stick around.

Pierce was ejected from the series opener with 7 minutes left in the fourth quarter, and in Game 2 he strained his left Achilles’ tendon in the first half and was still hobbling down the stretch. He knows that Boston’s chances of avoiding a 3-0 hole depend on his ability to stick around at the end, and he plans to be there.

“Paul Pierce being in the game in the fourth quarter, healthy, is always going to help the Celtics,” he said before practice on Friday.

The Heat took the first two games of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals in Miami, and the series resumes with Game 3 on Saturday night in Boston. For these Celtics, who have never fallen behind 0-2 since the New Big Three was assembled in the summer of 2007, it’s a crucial game to avoid what could be an insurmountable hole.

“We still feel like it’s going to be a seven-game series,” Pierce said. “I like our chances, especially with our backs against the wall.”

The Celtics have reason to be optimistic that they can at least make a series of it. They are back at home, where this core is 29-7 in the playoffs, and they expect to be healthier than they have been in a while, thanks in part to the three days off since their Game 2 loss.

That will help Ray Allen, who has a bruised chest from being elbowed by , and Rajon Rondo, who has a stiff back. Pierce said his Achilles’ is fine, and coach said he expects to have coming off the bench for the first time in the postseason.

O’Neal has played just 5 minutes, 29 seconds since Feb. 1 because of a leg injury.

“Other than that, we don’t know what he can give us on the floor,” Rivers said, adding that O’Neal would not be limited in practice. “There’s no way we can get him at 100 percent. That ship has sailed. That would be a miracle. But we can get him to a point where he can help us.”

O’Neal came to Boston for just this time of year, but he missed the sweep of the in the first round and the first two games against Miami because of a calf injury in his right leg. The Celtics originally called it a “minor” injury, and he has been day-to-day from month-to-month, but he hasn’t gotten back on the court.

“We don’t know what to expect,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. “Shaq is a champion. He’s a guy who has won four rings. He’s had a lot of big playoff moments. Having him back is going to be a boost in energy to the crowd and to the team. But it’s our job to go in and continue executing our game plan and not really worry about who’s coming back, who’s in the lineup and who isn’t.”

The defending Eastern Conference champions, Boston won it all in 2008 and took the to seven games in the NBA finals last year. The Celtics cruised through the Knicks in the first round for their date with Heat — a matchup that had been anticipated ever since James and Chris Bosh joined Wade in Miami to form the league’s newest superteam.

But to get past them, Boston will have to do something its has never had to do before: Rally from two games down in the playoffs.

“The whole thing’s a challenge,” forward said. “Our mentality is an all-in mentality for tomorrow’s game. … This is it. We’ve used all our lifelines. I hate to say it like that, but it’s true. This is not a cool, kind of, ‘Keep your composure.’ No, this is ‘We’ve got to get the next game.’ It’s all-in. This is it, I’ve got two pocket kings and I’m all in.”

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra would expect nothing less.

“They’re a poised, experienced team that’s been through it all,” he said. “And they’ve been through this before, where everybody’s throwing dirt on them, saying that whatever it may be, that it’s near the end of the line, that their guys have too many miles on those wheels.

“We don’t believe any of that,” Spoelstra said. “Every time you count them out, they come back with a championship response. That’s who they’ve been. That’s what they deserve. They deserve that type of respect.”


AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this story from Miami.

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