MIAMI — So it appears the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics are in competition yet again.
The Heat are the other finalist for Celtics guard Ray Allen, who on Thursday was in Miami to meet with team personnel. Allen has been targeted by the Heat since the league's free-agency period began Sunday.
Allen's agent, Jim Tanner, did not return a call seeking comment. According to The Associated Press, Allen stayed overnight and talks will continue Friday.
The Heat were initially also in competition with the Los Angeles Clippers. ESPN and NBA.com reported Allen would visit them Friday, but the Clippers canceled the meeting after offering contracts to guards Jamal Crawford and Chauncey Billups. Those two additions would leave no room for Allen.
Miami is considered at a disadvantage because the Celtics have reportedly offered twice the max amount the Heat have available. The most the Heat can pay Allen is the taxpayer mid-level exception, which is $3.1 million.
The Celtics made the push to keep Allen despite agreeing to terms Tuesday with veteran Jason Terry, who spent the past eight seasons with the Dallas Mavericks. They also recently signed center Kevin Garnett to a three-year contract with hopes of keeping the Celtics' core together.
Garnett, Allen and forward Paul Pierce led Boston to the title in 2008 and lost the championship to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2010. Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge told the Boston Globe earlier this week they want Allen to return for his sixth season with the team.
"We want Ray back in the worst way," Ainge told the paper. "I think Ray knows we're interested in him. I don't know, but he very well could [have suitors]. But we really want Ray back."
What the Heat could offer is more playing time. Allen would likely come off the bench after losing his starting job to Avery Bradley late in the season. Allen only started during the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat because Bradley sustained a season-ending shoulder injury the previous series against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Once Bradley returns, Allen would then have to split minutes with Terry. Even as a reserve in Miami, Allen would rank higher on the depth chart and have less competition for playing time. Allen would back up Heat guard Dwyane Wade and also could fill the void should swingman Mike Miller decide to retire. Miller is expected soon to make a decision after meeting with a back specialist.
Allen, 36, will enter his 17th season but is still considered valuable because of his perimeter shooting. He is the NBA's career leader in 3-pointers made. The only concern is how well he recovers from offseason surgery to remove bone spurs from his right ankle. The condition slowed him most of the postseason, most notably against the Heat.
With 3-point shooting a priority, Allen is the second perimeter player the Heat have shown interest. They also reached out to New Orleans Hornets forward Rashard Lewis, who became a free agent when his contract was bought out. Lewis, who has averaged 16.1 points in his 14-year career, is also expected to visit Miami this weekend.
Free-agent signings are not allowed until Wednesday.
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