BOSTON When the final seconds ticked away in Boston's Game 7 loss at Miami, there was a sense that the Big Three era in Boston was over.
Not so fast, people.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is in evaluation mode of the top free agents to pursue this summer.
Ainge has maintained every year that the goal -- through the draft as well as free agency -- is get the best players.
If he sticks to that formula, you can bet Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, both of whom will be free agents this summer, are very much in the mix in terms of being targets of the C's in coming back to Boston next season.
While free agency is still a few weeks away, Ainge told CSNNE.com that all of the current Celtics who will become free agents next month are in the talent pool that the C's will be looking to pluck from in order in constructing the 2012-13 season.
When asked whether he was leaning one way or another in terms of which players he wanted to bring back, Ainge responded, "That's a tough 'yes' or 'no' question. We want guys back that we have on our roster now. We'll have good dialogue . . . and figure out who is coming back."
As it stands now, the Celtics under contract include Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, JaJuan Johnson and Avery Bradley. All but Johnson are starters.
Brandon Bass is under contract for next season with a 4.25 million salary. However, he can opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent, and multiple league sources told CSNNE.com this weekend that he's leaning in that direction.
Bass has indicated that he wants to stay with the Celtics, but in all likelihood he'll want to do so with a multiyear contract.
BOSTON -- When it comes to NBA awards and accolades, players in contention often try to play it cool when asked about whether they are deserving.
And then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, who gives a definitive response whenever the question about whether he should be an All-Star starter is raised.
We’ll find out later today if Thomas will in fact be named as a starter for the Eastern Conference All-Star team when the East and West starters are announced.
“It’s a little bit refreshing in that he is open about it,” Danny Ainge said on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show this morning. “But every player wants to be acknowledged by their fan base, by other players in the league, coaches. You come into the league and as a young player you want to earn the respect of your peers and then you want to get paid and then you want to be an All-Star; maybe that’s the wrong order; and then nothing more important than winning.
Ainge added, “Isaiah is having a great year. He’s talked a lot about it. At some point in his career, he’ll talk about the most important thing and that’s winning championships.”
Ainge pointed to when Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were all Celtics, there was no mistaking that winning came before anything else.
But where those guys were in their careers in terms of individual achievements and just age, were major factors in their focus being so deeply rooted in winning.
“Along the way they all want to win, but when you get to the point where Paul, Ray and KG were in their 30s, they didn’t care about any of that other stuff because they had it all, already,” Ainge said. “They had multiple All-Star games, they had big contracts, winning became the only thing that mattered.”
In other Celtics-related news, Ainge said that there’s no timetable for when Avery Bradley (right Achilles strain) will return to the floor. He has missed five of the last six games with the injury which includes last night’s loss to the New York Knicks which was a game in which the 6-foot-2 Bradley was a last-minute scratch from the lineup