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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Rivers Gets 5-Year Extension as Coach of Celtics

He smiled and told reporters it was from his new coach, then ducked into the nearby workout room to take the call. But he was only half-joking: It was Doc Rivers calling, and he had just agreed to a five-year contract extension that would not only give him another run at a title with the current roster but keep him in Boston to help rebuild the franchise when the Big Three era is done.

“I think Doc is the best coach in the league. So it’s great for us,” Ainge said Friday at the team’s practice facility. “There’s nobody I’d rather have as my coach than Doc.”

Rivers contract was set to expire — he had an option for next season — and he said after the Celtics were eliminated by the Miami Heat on Wednesday night that he was “leaning heavily” toward coming back. But he was expected to return on a short-term deal to make one more run at a title with the Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

Instead, the five-year contract worth a reported $35 million would give him the chance to lead the franchise with a rebuilt roster that probably won’t include any of the thirtysomething stars who led Boston to its 18th NBA title — and Rivers’ first — in 2008.

“Doc wants to be here. It’s not all because he thinks that over the next five years we will have the best team in the NBA,” Ainge said. “He’s part of this franchise. He wants to do what it takes for us to be successful.”

One year after Rivers waited into the summer to make up his mind to return for just one year, he decided quickly on a long-term deal. It was discussed in training camp, shelved during the season and then revisited after the first-round sweep over the New York Knicks in the playoffs gave them a chance to talk.

“He just wanted to come back this year and see how it was going to be,” Ainge said. “Doc has always known that we wanted him. That offer was on the table.”

Rivers has coached the Celtics for the past seven seasons, winning the NBA title in 2008 and reaching the finals in 2010 before losing in seven games to the Los Angeles Lakers. This year, Boston swept the New York Knicks in four games before losing to the Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals in five games.

Ainge promised changes, refusing to even promise that the team’s four core players — the Big Three and point guard Rajon Rondo — would be back. If they are, there could be changes in the way they’re used, with an eye toward keeping the older stars fresh for the playoffs.

And the roster will be different, he said, acknowledging that the team got little help from the bench in the postseason — especially on offense.

“There were too many scoring droughts at crucial times in games,” Ainge said. “We need to improve our team to have a crack at it next year.”

Also Friday:

—Ainge again defended the midseason trade that sent Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City for Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green. Neither of the players Boston got were productive in the playoffs, but Ainge said Krstic was recovering from bruises in both knees and Green might have needed more time to adjust to his role.

—Ainge said he would like to re-sign Glen “Big Baby” Davis, a free agent, but Davis has indicated he wants to go somewhere and be a star — or at least a starter.

— Jermaine O’Neal will have “pretty serious surgery” on broken bones in his left wrist, Ainge said, which could involved having pins or screws implanted. O’Neal, who is left-handed, was injured when he took a charge in the Knicks series and landed on his wrist.

—Ainge also said that he was waiting to hear from Shaquille O’Neal whether the future Hall of Famer wants to return. O’Neal played a total of just 18 minutes since Feb. 1, making just two, short appearances in the playoffs.

Ainge said O’Neal worked hard to get better, but he reinjured his right calf when he returned in the regular season. The team expected him to improve, but he never really did.

“I feel bad for Shaq,” Ainge said. “It was hard for me to watch.”

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Former Celtics Guard Billups Ready to Face Rondo

The No. 3 overall pick by Boston in the 1997 averaged 11.1 points and 4.3 assists while starting 44 of 51 games for the as a rookie and imagined being a Celtic for years.

But it just wasn’t enough. A “win-now” mentality imposed by management on , who was in his first season as the Celtics coach, was the start of Billups’ travels through five teams over a stretch of five seasons.

“I don’t know. I just think that I got caught up in a situation because I was playing well. I was starting. Rick signed for a lot of money. Everybody thought I hated Rick and Rick hated me. That wasn’t the case,” Billups said Friday while discussing the trade that sent him to the for fellow point guard .

“At the end of the day when I got traded, he just basically told me that there was a lot of pressure on him to win. He needed to get a veteran point guard to try to help him do that. He basically didn’t have time for me to kind of learn through my mistakes. It was tough for me to get traded at that point in my career. Third pick of the draft, you feel like you’re going to be there for like nine or 10 years or your whole career kind of like Paul has.”

During his first couple of years after the trade, the recent acquisition said he would use the trade as motivation to beat the Celtics, but no longer sees it as an “extra incentive other than the desire to win.”

Billups, a veteran with 139 games of postseason experience and one NBA title, will face a test when it comes to containing the quick and athletic Celtics All-Star guard, Rajon Rondo, in the first-round series that starts Sunday night at Boston.

Billups, the MVP of the 2004 NBA finals, had nothing but praise for the 25-year-old point guard who has become an integral part of Boston’s recent run as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

“He’s a tough matchup because he’s so fast. He’s a smart player. He’s crafty. He’s really the engine for that team. Although they got a lot of Hall of Famers on that team, he is kind of the guy that makes you go,” Billups said.

Billups believes Rondo is the only other player in the league besides Dallas’ who can dominate a game without scoring. So he was surprised Rondo was the last player cut on the U.S. squad that won the world championships in Turkey last summer.

“I don’t really know the details,” Billups said. “He was playing good. He and I were both starting in the backcourt pretty much. They just made the decision that they wanted to move forward without him. He had a great summer. He played well. Guys liked him. It was good.”

knows the Knicks will have a tough time containing Rondo and lauded his play. The Knicks coach said although the defensive assignment would go to Landry Fields at times, it will be Billups’ job from the tipoff.

“We’re not going to be tricky right off the bat,” D’Antoni said. “I see Rondo as one of smartest players in the game. I do know that from being around him at USA Basketball. He’s a big key for them without a doubt. He’s always come through, so I’m expecting the best from him knowing that he’s good, he’s really good.”

While Billups had to fight through a pair of thigh injuries since the Knicks acquired him from Denver along with , Amare Stoudemire is confident in the job his teammate would do against the younger Rondo.

“I think Chauncey is a sound vet. He knows what it takes to win. I have the most, high confidence in him. Rondo obviously is a seasoned player. He knows what he’s doing. He’s very crafty,” Stoudemire said.

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