Ray Allen recruited by contenders

LeBron James and Chris Paul are the closest of friends, but they will be at cross purposes over the next few days. They are recruiting against each other for the services of Ray Allen.

Allen hasn’t ruled out re-signing with the Boston Celtics, who have made him a strong monetary offer, but signs are pointing to Allen choosing between James' Miami Heat and Paul's Los Angeles Clippers.

On Thursday, the Heat will host Allen for a visit as they try to persuade him to accept less money and perhaps a lesser role to join their bid to repeat as champions. Friday, Allen is scheduled to visit the Clippers, who have more money to offer and a clear role as the starting shooting guard.

James and Paul, sources said, have been actively recruiting Allen to join their respective teams. Earlier this week, James tweeted a photo of Allen wearing a Heat uniform. Wednesday, Dwyane Wade sent out a tweet describing Thursday as a big day for the franchise.

As with virtually every free agent, money and role are said to be at the top of Allen’s list of priorities. All three options are with teams that consider themselves title contenders.

The Celtics, perhaps for public relations purposes, have made it known that their offer to retain Allen is two years for a total of $12 million. That is twice what the Heat can offer per year via the taxpayer mid-level, which starts at $3 million. Miami, however, could offer Allen up to three years at that figure to cut the overall cash difference in half.

The Clippers have their entire $5 million mid-level exception available. They could give Allen three years and trump the overall value of the Celtics’ current offer and the Heat’s best offer.

The Celtics have made two recent commitments that might drive Allen elsewhere. One was making Avery Bradley the starter at shooting guard in the later stages of the season and playoffs. The indications are that Bradley will stay in that role next season whether Allen is back or not. Boston also reportedly came to terms with free-agent shooting guard Jason Terry, a player who is very comfortable coming off the bench as a former Sixth Man of the Year.

The Clippers spent much of last season searching for a shooting guard to fit the rest of their strong starting lineup, often playing Mo Williams out of position there and also making a deadline deal for Nick Young. Randy Foye was the starter for a majority of the season. Allen, who turns 37 on July 20, could slide in perfectly to that role with a top flight point guard in Paul setting him up.

To offer Allen a starting role, or even late-game minutes as part of their finishing lineup, the Heat would have to make some changes. They could go a number of ways but it would likely either lead to Allen or Wade, the incumbent at shooting guard, playing out of his normal position to start and finish games. It helps, of course, that James can play power forward and Chris Bosh can play center.

Explaining how it would work is assumed to be a central factor in the Heat’s pitch. But they do have Pat Riley to make the sale and his record in such matters is strong.

Allen could make his decision by the end of the weekend.