BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics' new Big Three will stay together to try for a second NBA title.
Ray Allen confirmed to The Associated Press on Wednesday night 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.com's Marc Stein.
Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that Chicago, Cleveland, Miami and New York are among the teams that expressed strong interest in Allen, but the recent returns of Pierce and Rivers -- after Boston's unexpected run to the Finals and a narrow seven-game defeat to the Lakers -- only increased Allen's desire to return.
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 Lakers, 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, general manager Danny 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.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.