Celtics have roster spots to fill

WALTHAM, Mass. -- The Boston Celtics have a shopping list this holiday season and they're hoping to have much of their work done -- or at least be ready to purchase -- by the time training camp opens next week.

Call it "Green Friday," as the NBA will open training camps Dec. 9. Teams can't officially sign players until that day, but Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Thursday that after the league allowed general managers to start corresponding with player agents this week, he hopes to have as many as 10 players on the court at the start of camp.

"Hopefully we'll be close on Dec. 9," Ainge said. "There may be some straggling players coming in. But hopefully when we start training camp, we'll at least have 10 [players]."

The Celtics currently boast six players under contract in the playoff starting five -- Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jermaine O'Neal -- and second-year guard Avery Bradley. The team can add two more players if it signs draft picks JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore.

Before the lockout, Boston expressed interest in undrafted guard Gilbert Brown, who seemingly could be part of a free-agent cluster brought in to compete for a spot in camp.

Ainge also indicated Thursday that the Celtics have had interest in retaining the services of restricted free agent Jeff Green.

Unrestricted free agents Glen Davis and Delonte West are also on the radar.

"We've had conversations with their representatives," Ainge said.

He did stress that nothing was close with any free agents, and the league prohibits handshake deals until free agency opens.

Ainge admitted the post-lockout landscape is a bit daunting for a team that's already committed $63.8 million to six players. And that doesn't count the $5.9 million qualifying offer to Green (whose value might only escalate if he draws interest from other teams).

"Every year is a challenge, it brings different challenges," Ainge said. "A few years back, we had a target and we went after Rasheed [Wallace], and it was easy that way. We don't have the same [financial] flexibility this summer to do some of those things. We're just in the game. We have a list of players we'd like to get. Right now there's a lot of money out there, a lot of teams with cap space. Players are waiting for the big paydays, so we have to be patient in this process."

One thing the team does know, it will not use the amnesty clause this season to take one contract off the books. Given the need for bodies, that ace in its pocket should be more valuable to the team in future seasons (even next year with at least $37.4 million coming off the books with Garnett, Allen, and O'Neal in the final year of their deals).

The Celtics also expect to be a tax-paying team -- a good sign they plan to bring back the likes of Green and Davis, even if the latter could simply be used in a sign-and-trade deal. That would mean Boston would have only the mini mid-level exception ($3 million) at its disposal to add another above-the-minimum player (while non-tax-payers will have a $5 million mid-level to entice others).

Size and shooting -- Boston's two biggest needs -- won't come cheap, and that means Ainge will have to be creative in filling out the roster. Ainge did suggest the team might be in the market for players who get released by others via the amnesty clause, but again, non-taxpayers will have a better opportunity at those available.

"We've had a long time off and a lot of GMs out there that are anxious for the season to start," he said. "There's been a lot of conversations. That's my job to field all the calls of all the teams and find the value of my players. That's what I do."

Coach Doc Rivers is bracing himself for having as much as half of the team comprise new faces.

"Listen, we don't know who we're going to have yet," he said. "Obviously, we have a list and we're going after that list. And so when you're integrating half a team to another team, it's going to be [difficult]. But we're not the only group that's doing that. Like Danny said, we do have a core group, that are familiar with what we do. Obviously, they are going to be extremely important at the start of the season to help carry whatever new guys we have.

"I expect us on the first game to be ready. We may have to put in more work to get there. We might have to go double [sessions] in training camp and even through the preseason to get there. But I think we can get there."

Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.