ORLANDO, Fla. -- In the moments following the Boston Celtics' summer league triumph over Charlotte on Wednesday, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and coach Doc Rivers huddled together in a hallway outside the Boston locker room at the RVD Sportsplex.
When the duo reappeared a few minutes later, Rivers joked, "Talk to Danny, he's got some news for you."
It seems he wasn't joking, after all.
Just a few hours after, Ainge and the Celtics pulled off their latest offseason coup, re-signing Ray Allen to an extremely team-friendly two-year, $20 million contract.
In the span of a little more than a week, the Celtics have brought back their offseason Big Three of Rivers, Allen and Paul Pierce. And while the rest of the league overpays for marginal talent, Boston quietly re-signed both Allen and Pierce -- and their 17 total All-Star appearances -- to what amounts to bargain deals in this free-agent feeding frenzy.
The fact that Allen returned at a reasonable price shouldn't be too surprising. Even in the moments following the Celtics' Game 7 loss to the Lakers in the NBA Finals last month, Allen asserted that coming back to Boston was his first choice.
But a players' market left observers wondering if the Celtics could afford Allen. Even though he turns 35 later this month, Allen sat comfortably in the second tier of unrestricted free agents, and those scorned in the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh sweepstakes would likely have made a run at him hoping to compensate for failing to land a young superstar.
Like Pierce before him, it appears Allen never seriously entertained any interested suitors outside of Boston. Even as the Celtics hinted that Allen's negotiations might linger into the summer, his mind was seemingly made up from the start.
Did Allen take a "hometown discount"? Absolutely. There were undoubtedly teams willing to offer more years and more money to lure him away from Boston. When Carlos Boozer -- another free agent a notch below the superstars -- signed with the Chicago Bulls for five years and somewhere between $75 million and $80 million, it appeared Allen's price tag jumped up just a bit more.
It didn't happen. The Celtics were able to lure back Rivers and Pierce early in the offseason for another run at a title, making it seem impossible that Allen would walk away. Allen often raves about the Joslin Diabetes Center, which helps provide care of his diabetic son, Walker. His ties to Boston, both on and off the court, were simply too strong, outweighing a few extra dollars in a career that's seen him earn roughly $158 million over 14 seasons.
Allen averaged 16.3 points per game this season, his lowest total since his rookie campaign, and shot 36.3 percent from beyond the arc, the second-lowest mark of his career (35.6 percent in 50 games in 1989-99).
He struggled mightily in the NBA Finals, averaging 14.6 points per game, but shooting just 36.7 percent from the floor (he's a career 45-percent shooter) and 38.6 percent from 3-point land -- connecting on just 4-of-30 from beyond the arc, aside from his Finals-record eight 3-pointers in Game 2.
But re-signing Allen (and Pierce before him) remained Boston's best option this offseason. The Green were not going to free up much cash if Allen or Pierce walked away. In fact, Boston would have been left scrambling, potentially using its mid-level exception to lure a serviceable shooting guard.
Now the core remains intact and, as Rivers is fond of noting, the starting five from the past few seasons have never lost a playoff series when all are healthy.
The Celtics won't start the year healthy as Kendrick Perkins is slated to have surgery to repair a torn ACL soon. (The procedure didn't take place Wednesday, as previously scheduled, according to the C's media relations folks.) Perkins admitted he could be out into the 2011 calendar year and potentially longer depending on how his rehab progresses.
Allen's return doesn't shore up some gaping holes in the frontcourt, especially with Perkins sidelined to start the season and 15-year veteran Rasheed Wallace deciding whether to hang up his headband for good and walk away from as much as $13 million over the next two seasons.
Examining the market for shooting guards won't yield much unless one considers the always-dangerous restricted free agents (who could have their contracts matched or topped by a team with cap space).
Allen doesn't appear to have let the conversation get to that point, either. Hours before the moratorium to ink free agents ended, Allen agreed to return to Boston.
But maybe the best part of the deal for Boston is the fact that Allen signed for only two seasons, with the second year being a player option. That allows Boston to toss the keys to the proverbial Celtics car to Rajon Rondo and start rebuilding the franchise around the young All-Star point guard.
Until then, the Big Three will continue to help Rondo shoulder the load. After winning one world title in 2008 and coming six minutes shy of another this past season, the Celtics are more than happy to reunite their Big Three, realizing it was the best course of action this offseason.
And even as the rest of the East loads up with big names and bigger contracts, the Celtics -- defending conference champions -- quietly brace for a redemption tour aimed at claiming the crown that slipped away against Los Angeles.
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.