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.
Often times reporting something can shake something loose from another source. That might have been the case Thursday morning.
Just eight minutes after Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that the Celtics and Pacers were not in advanced discussions on Paul George because of Boston’s unwillingness to deal the Nets’ 2017 first-round pick, he sent a follow-up saying sources had indicated that the pick was indeed in play.
George, 26, will be a free agent after the 2017-18 season.
It seems the Celtics can throw yet another piece onto their treasure trove of assets.
The Celtics stashed two of their first-round picks from the 2016 draft overseas and in the process have seen 23rd overall pick Ante Zizic establish himself as a very promising NBA prospect.
The Croatian center, currently playing in the Turkish League, has boosted his stock with a strong season in what’s expected to be his last before joining the Celtics. Appearing on Toucher and Rich Thursday morning, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor said that Zizic has improved to the point that he would be a top-10 pick in the 2017 draft. “He looks really good,” O’Connor said. “I liked him last year when I first watched him. I thought, ‘Good energy big man. He’ll have a solid career,’ but then the more you watch him, the more you see.
“This year, he’s really taken a step forward. All his strengths look better. All the things he was already good at like screening, rebounding and rim-protection, he looks better. But he’s also starting to flash a little bit of a mid-range jumper, and he’s never had bad mechanics, but now that shot’s starting to fall. So maybe he can be more than that energy big man. Maybe he’s a little bit more dynamic than that.
“If I’m the Celtics, I value him as you’re getting a top-10 pick this yea. I think he’d go around nine or 10 in this draft.”