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.
NEW YORK - NBA referees will be able to call flagrant or technical fouls on defenders who dangerously close on jump shooters without allowing them space to land, as Zaza Pachulia did on the play that injured Spurs star Kawhi Leonard in last season's playoffs.
Officials will also make sure jump shooters are in their upward shooting motion when determining if a perimeter foul is worthy of free throws, which could cut down on James Harden's attempts after he swings his arms into contact.
The new rules interpretations are being unofficially called the "Harden Rule" and the "Zaza Rule". The Washington Wizards accused the Celtics' Al Horford of a dangerous closeout on Markieff Morris that injured Morris and knocked him out of Game 1 of their playoff series two weeks before the Pachulia-Leonard play.
Leonard sprained his ankle when Pachulia slid his foot under Leonard's in Game 1 of Golden State's victory in the Western Conference finals. After calling a foul, officials will now be able to look at a replay to determine if the defender recklessly positioned his foot in an unnatural way, which could trigger an upgrade to a flagrant, or a technical if there was no contact but an apparent attempt to injure.
"It's 100 percent for the safety of the players," NBA senior vice president of replay and referee operations Joe Borgia said Thursday.
The NBA had made the freedom to land a point of emphasis for officials a few years ago, because of the risk of injuries.
Officials can still rule the play a common foul if they did not see a dangerous or unnatural attempt by the defender upon review. Borgia said Pachulia's foul would have been deemed a flagrant.
With the fouls on the perimeter shots - often coming when the offensive player has come off a screen and quickly attempts to launch a shot as his defender tries to catch up - officials will focus on the sequencing of the play. The player with the ball must already be in his shooting motion when contact is made, rather than gathering the ball to shoot such as on a drive to the basket.
"We saw it as a major trend in the NBA so we had to almost back up and say, `Well, wait a minute, this is going to be a trend, so let's catch up to it,"' NBA president of league operations Byron Spruell said.