Set to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, Celtics guard Ray Allen said it's hard to think about his future until the sting of Thursday's Game 7 loss to the Lakers in the NBA Finals wears off. But in the aftermath of that crushing defeat, he suggested his preference is to be back in a Boston uniform next season.
"I'll deal with that when the times comes, but it's obvious that I don't want to be anywhere else," said Allen, who labored through 3-of-14 shooting, while scoring 13 points in 45 minutes of action.
Asked if Boston could replicate its postseason success next year with the same aging core, Allen said: "I don't see why not."
The question now becomes how much does Boston want Allen back, and will they be able to offer the same length and money as other potential deep-pocketed suitors?
Allen earned $19.8 million in the final year of an extension he signed in Seattle before being traded to Boston on draft night in 2007. While his salary was second only to Paul Pierce on this year's squad, Allen, who turns 35 this offseason, is likely to see an offer from Boston that runs no more than two years -- the same remaining time on Kevin Garnett's contract -- at maybe half the price he's making now.
Earlier this year, Allen noted he's prefer to be a lifetime Celtic.
"I'd like to be here," Allen said in February. "There's no reason to be any other place. I'd love to retire with this organization. [But] that's up to the team. I want to be here. This team has proven over the decades to be a winner, one of the best in sports, and that's what this organization plans to do. I'm committed to it."
Allen averaged 16.3 points on 47.7 percent shooting with 2.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game during the 2009-10 season. After three successful seasons in Green, it's hard to imagine him walking away on Thursday's subpar performance.
Asked to describe the scene in the Celtics' locker room following the Game 7 loss, Allen said: "Tears, a lot of tears. It's hard to think about playing. You've got guys that are veteran players that come in and do their job every night. We're here for a reason, it's tough to see it end this way."
PLAYERS WANT DOC BACK FOR 2010-11 SEASON
Allen isn't the only key piece to the Celtics' puzzle that players would like to see back next season. After Thursday's Game 7 loss, players were campaigning for Rivers to return to the sideline for the 2010-11 campaign.
After six years on the Boston bench, Rivers, 48, is pondering taking time off to be with his family, especially as three of his children are set to enter their senior years (two at college, one in high school).
Rivers got emotional after Thursdays' loss, but said he wouldn't rush a decision.
"I am [emotional]," admitted Rivers. "We just lost a Game 7, and with a terrific group. This group, they were awesome.
"I can't reflect on it right now. Probably in a week or so I'll go hide somewhere for a while. But it was the craziest, most emotional group I've ever coached in my life. I told them, they made me reach to places that I never thought I needed to go, I had to go. But through it all, we were the tightest most emotional crazy group that I've ever been with in my life. So that's what makes it tough."
Pressed on his future, Rivers noted: "I don't know. I'm going to wait. I'm going to go and watch my kids play AAU basketball, and I'm going to wait for a little bit."
His players certainly want him back.
Asked what Rivers meant to Boston's success, Garnett noted, "Doc's everything. Everything.
"I think everyone wants him back; that's not even an issue. It's just a matter of whether Doc wants to come back and whatever decision he sees fit for himself and his family."
Echoed captain Paul Pierce: "I'd love to see Doc back. He's one of the greatest coaches in the NBA."
Asked if he had said anything to Rivers to encourage him to stay, Pierce noted he hadn't. But then made an impromptu pitch.
"I'll do it right now," Pierce said, looking into the cameras in front of him. "I hope he comes back."