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Depth at 4 softens inability to reel in West

12/11/2011

AP Photo/Bill Haber

It appears these two won't be teammates this season.WALTHAM, Mass. -- Well, the Celtics found themselves a center.

Boston's attempt to land free-agent big man David West via a sign-and-trade with New Orleans died Sunday with the Hornets apparently unable to find a destination for Jermaine O'Neal and his $6.2 million contract. West instead signed a two-year, $20 million deal with the cap-space gushing Indiana Pacers, earning a heftier payday than Boston likely could have offered.

Following Boston's flirtation with Chris Paul, it's the second big-name target the team has failed to reel in, but the miss on West is softened by the other moves the Celtics made in the early stages of this frenzied offseason.

Boston is still well stocked at the power forward spot, having already added Chris Wilcox and Brandon Bass, while also signing restricted free agent Jeff Green to a one-year deal.

The 31-year-old West was an intriguing option and a potential bargain coming off ACL surgery. He had high-reward potential if the Celtics could have signed him at the right price. Moving O'Neal might have simply been too difficult for the Hornets, who had no interest in absorbing his contract and needed a contender to take on O'Neal after the deal to clear the Hornets' some cap space.

Even in a market where established centers have high value, the 33-year-old O'Neal's value was diminished by his own health woes, including a knee ailment that limited him to 24 regular-season appearances last year. What's more, O'Neal elected not to have potentially career-ending wrist surgery this offseason and is gutting through wrist woes (which were aggravated in the postseason against the Knicks).

A healthy O'Neal would limit the amount the Celtics will have to utilize power forwards Kevin Garnett or Wilcox in the center position. And with inexperienced Greg Stiemsma the only other pure center currently on the roster, the team can still benefit from having O'Neal around.

To his credit, O'Neal acknowledged the rumors this weekend and said he understood the business side of the game. He said all along his preference was to stay in Boston. And, for now at least, he got his wish.