By A. Sherrod Blakely
WALTHAM When Danny Ainge makes a personnel decision, it's rare that even with hindsight, he looks back on it with regret.
But the decision to not pursue re-signing Tony Allen with more vigor last summer was one that Ainge admits he wouldn't mind a do-over on, if possible.
At the time, Ainge had originally offered Allen a shorter-term deal than the three-year, 9.7 million contract he agreed to with the Memphis Grizzlies.
The perception has been that the Celtics didn't step up financially to bring Allen back.
"We offered Tony the same deal he ended up getting in Memphis," Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, said on Friday.
However, that offer did not come until after the Grizzlies' offer.
Ainge's initial offer was for fewer years than Allen was willing to accept.
By the time Boston stepped up and matched the Grizzlies' offer, Allen began to think more about the opportunity to start fresh in Memphis as opposed to coming back to the Celtics and remaining a backup to Ray Allen and Paul Pierce.
Ainge recognizes that Allen may still be a Celtic had he made his final offer initially, "but we were trying to maintain our (salary cap) flexibility," he said.
Kevin Garnett, who will make 21.25 million this upcoming season, and Ray Allen who is expected to pick up his option for this upcoming season that will pay him 10 million, are both coming off the Celtics books prior to the summer of 2012.
The Celtics didn't want to re-sign Tony Allen to a contract that went beyond two seasons.
"It wasn't about money, it was about years and flexibility," Ainge said. "We wanted to keep a lot of cap flexibility and that was the issue."
Since leaving Boston for Memphis, Tony Allen has distinguished himself as one of the league's premier defenders which is evident by him being named to the NBA's All-Defensive second team this season.
One of the main pitches the Grizzlies made to woo Allen was an opportunity to establish a name for himself instead of remaining in the shadow of Allen and Pierce.
In Memphis, Tony Allen has become more of a leader both on and off the court and was instrumental in the eighth-seeded Grizzlies upsetting top-seeded San Antonio in the first round of the playoffs.
After Friday's 95-83 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder (they prominently feature another cast aside former Celtic, Kendrick Perkins), Allen and the Grizzlies are now one win away from a trip to the Western Conference finals.
"I'm more vocal," Allen said of his leadership role with Memphis. "As if I was Kevin (Garnett) or Paul (Pierce). They were the most vocal guys (in Boston). I kind of just looked at what they were doing. They were the realist. If something was going wrong in a game, they'd speak on it and they don't let it get out of hand. That's pretty much what I do with our guys."
Said Ainge: "I don't think Tony always liked his role here in Boston. I don't think we understand how hard it is playing behind Ray and Paul, because they're so good."
If Boston had offered three years initially, Ainge believes there's a good chance that Allen would be a Celtic now.
That still may not have been enough for the Celtics' season to be alive right now.
"I don't think he's a savior for a team," said Ainge, who added, "I think he's a good player."