Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge says the team plans to sign six-time All-Star center Jermaine O’Neal.
The contract is reportedly for the mid-level exception, about $5.76 million in the first year of a two-year deal.
O’Neal has averaged 14 points and 7.5 rebounds in a 14-year career for Portland, Indiana, Toronto and Miami. With the Heat last year, he averaged 13.6 points and 6.9 rebounds.
The defending Eastern Conference champions are looking for big men because center Kendrick Perkins isn’t expected back soon from a knee injury and backup Rasheed Wallace has said he will retire.
Ainge confirmed the team’s intentions after a Celtics’ summer league game in Orlando, Fla.
On Wednesday night, Ray Allen confirmed to The Associated Press that he has agreed to a two-year, $20 million contract to return to Boston. With Kevin Garnett under contract, Paul Pierce on the verge of a new four-year deal and coach Doc Rivers also agreeing to return, the Celtics can keep together the core of the 2008 NBA champions for at least two more years.
Allen’s agent, Lon Babby, told the AP that the second year is a player option. NBA teams are not allowed to sign free agents until Thursday.
The deal was first reported by ESPN.
Allen, who turns 35 this month, averaged 16.3 points last season as the Celtics reached the NBA finals for the second time in three years. After Boston lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games, Allen said, “It’s obvious I don’t want to be anywhere else.”
Allen joined the Celtics in the summer of 2007, joining with Pierce to lure Garnett to Boston to form a new Big Three that won an NBA title in its first season together. The next year, with Garnett injured, the Celtics lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
With the team struggling at the All-Star break this year, Ainge considered trading Allen and trying to make the team younger by rebuilding around point guard Rajon Rondo. Instead, Ainge kept the core together and it rewarded him by returning to the finals.
Allen was inconsistent against the Lakers, hitting an NBA finals-record eight 3-pointers in Game 2, then going 0 for 16 from 3-point range over the next three games. But Rivers never wavered in his support, praising Allen’s defense and also the way he forces opponents to cover him wherever he is on the floor, opening up space for his teammates.
The Celtics said he was their top priority in the offseason.
But shortly after the finals ended, Pierce opted out of the final year of his contract, and Rivers discussed taking a sabbatical so he could spend more time with his family. When they both decided to return — Pierce agreed last week to a four-year deal worth a reported $61 million — all that was left was for Allen to re-sign.
In a 14-year career for Milwaukee, Seattle and Boston, Allen is second all-time in 3-pointers and fifth among active players with 20,965 points.