Aging Celtics not yet ready for youth movement
New Boston Celtics guard Jason Terry knew the question was coming, and he was ready when he was asked how he will replace Ray Allen on the roster.
''Who?'' Terry deadpanned.
''We're two different players,'' Terry said Friday at Celtics media day. ''Hopefully, I bring some things he didn't and some of the things he did. ... But I am `The Jet' and I like to fly. A lot of comparisons will be out there, but we're two totally different players.''
Allen is a likely Hall of Famer who came to Boston in the summer of 2007 to join Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in a New Big Three. They brought the Celtics their 17th NBA title that season and put them back in the NBA finals two years later.
But Allen missed time with bone spurs with his ankle and, when he returned, he was relegated to the bench. Allen signed with the Miami Heat for $3 million this summer, rather than making more money to return to the Celtics.
''I thought we were going to finish our careers together - me, Kevin and Ray,'' Pierce said on Friday. ''I wish he could have gone to the Clippers. Instead, he went to our Eastern Conference rivals.''
Terry was right about one thing: He's not Allen's replacement. The former Atlanta and Dallas guard was actually brought in before Allen left - though it took a while to work out a sign-and-trade deal that allowed the Celtics to finalize the contract. Even then, the Celtics maintained that they would have been happy to have both on the roster.
Garnett wished Allen the best and said he doesn't blame him for making a decision he thinks would be best for his family. But Garnett, who signed a three-year extension this offseason worth a reported $36 million, said he hasn't tried to get in touch with his former teammate.
''I don't have Ray's number anymore,'' Garnett said. ''I'm not trying to communicate. ... I choose not to. That's a choice I personally made. I'm very close to Ray. I know his family. I wish nothing but the best for him and his family. I'm just making a choice on my own. That's all.''
Allen's departure spoiled chances of another run for Boston's New Big Three, but the Celtics think they'll be able to compensate for his absence. Terry will fill Allen's role as an outside shooter, and point guard Rajon Rondo has emerged as a third star with his elder teammates.
''Rajon is really becoming a leader and I'm not sure a few years ago we could have said that,'' general manager Danny Ainge said. ''Right before our eyes he is growing as a person and a leader. I think the hardest thing to do is convince guys like Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce that you're a leader. And that's something you can't just give to somebody. It has to be earned. I think he is earning that respect from them.''
Last year was widely portrayed as the last run at a title for the thirty-somethings Garnett, Allen and Pierce. Garnett spent much of the year contemplating retirement, and it wasn't until he agreed to a new three-year deal this summer that the Celtics could be sure he was coming back.
Pierce said he would have retired if Garnett had gone because he didn't want to be a part of rebuilding from scratch.
''But when we signed 35-year-old Jason Terry, I knew we were trying to win another championship and not rebuilding,'' Pierce said.
Ainge said he was happy to put off the rebuilding for at least one more year.
''Those guys have a lot of basketball left in them,'' Ainge said. ''If the will is there, they'll find a way.''
Pierce, who turns 35 next month and is the longest-tenured member of the Celtics, never believed Garnett would retire.
''What's he going to do? He has to come back,'' Pierce said. ''This is in his blood. This is what he was born to do. I knew he wasn't going to walk away.''
Also Friday, the Celtics announced the signing of Darko Milicic, a 7-foot center, who was a member of the 2004 champion Detroit Pistons. The Celtics also signed free agent forwards Micah Downs and Rob Kurz, who both played in Europe last season.
Milicic has averaged six points and four rebounds in a career that has now sent him to six teams since the Pistons selected him with the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA draft.
''I stopped chasing the dream as being the second pick a long time ago,'' he said.
Asked how he wound up in Boston, he said, ''I flew here.''