Because NBA teams can contact free agents but cannot sign them until Friday, you’ll hear plenty about players truncating lists of potential destinations — mini versions of LeBron James ‘ ill-conceived Decision, if you will.
Four players, all great would-be additions in Boston, have included the Celtics on their short lists, according to various reports: Shane Battier , Grant Hill , Kurt Thomas  and Leon Powe .
Battier would require the $3 million mini mid-level exception, and that might still not be enough for Danny Ainge to lure The No Stats All-Star . Hill might cost the C’s $3 million as well, unless by some miracle coach Doc Rivers  can leverage his relationship to convince his fellow former Orlandoan to sign for the 10-year veteran minimum ($1.4 million). Both free agent’s list include seven teams, according to SI.com .
- Battier’s list: Heat, Spurs, Pacers, Raptors, Grizzlies , Celtics, Thunder
- Hill’s list: Suns, Knicks, Bulls, Spurs, Warriors, Celtics, Clippers
While Sports Illustrated cited the Suns as the heavy favorite to retain the 39-year-old Hill, a New York Post report confirmed Hill’s interest  in the Celtics, Bulls and Knicks, making the point that Phoenix is a rebuilding team that can’t offer the chance for a title like the Celtics, Bulls or even Knicks.
With the possible exception of the Spurs, the Celtics will be in the unfortunate position of offering the lowest contract to either player, as those other teams as currently constituted will have the full $5 million exception.
The Post report also linked the Celtics, Heat and Bulls to another 39-year-old in Thomas. While all three teams would be offering the 10-year veteran minimum, the Bulls can offer slightly more to retain Thomas, but the Celtics and Heat would probably have more minutes available for him.
Finally, ESPN Los Angeles reporter Dave McMenamin talked to a familiar face, tweeting : “Leon Powe said the Grizzlies  and Celtics are the teams he’s looking at.” The injury-plagued Powe chose Memphis over a return to Boston after being waived by the Cavaliers  late last season. He averaged 5.5 points and 1.6 rebounds in 8.8 minutes over his final 16 games, and then played only 3.5 minutes a night during the Grizzlies’ playoff run.
To recap, the Celtics can offer the worst contract among seven teams vying for the best player on this list (Battier) and would be lucky to land a pair of 39-year-olds (Hill and Thomas) or a guy who has played a combined 50 games over his last two seasons due to serious knee injuries (Powe). And I’m on board with any and all of these moves. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 2011-12 Celtics free agency period!
LATEST RAJON RONDO  RUMORS
The most recent development in the ongoing Rajon Rondo for Chris Paul  saga is this: The Hornets are contemplating dealing Paul before the season begins on Christmas Day, and “a small handful of teams” — including the Celtics, Mavericks and Rockets — have told New Orleans they are willing to trade for the four-time NBA All-Star even without a contract extension beyond the 2011-12 in place, according to ESPN.com .
A Rondo package is considered the best available offer. Needless to say, such a move would be beyond risky for the Celtics, as Paul could walk at the end of the season. Then again, the C’s would then be able to offer him significantly more money to retain him than any other team on the open market next offseason.
QUICK RELEASE: CELTICS LINKS
Most of what was reported in this Journal and Courier post  about Celtics draft picks and former Boilermakers JaJuan Johnson  and E’Twaun Moore , we already knew. But I particularly enjoyed two nuggets. …
- Purdue senior forward Robbie Hummel: “The whole team is very excited for them. We want to see what they can do. They’re going to play for a great team in the Boston Celtics . I know all of us are Celtics fans now because they are on the team.”
- Purdue head coach Matt Painter: “JaJuan is a guy who has worked really hard to be in the position he’s in. He is a guy who brought it every single day … a lunch-pail type guy. He came early and stayed late. He has some God-given ability. From a skills standpoint, he put a lot of time into shooting the basketball. A lot of people don’t realize he can bench 330 pounds. He is pretty strong. It’s special to see somebody develop like that and achieve some of their dreams.”
Naturally, Ray Allen  was the first to arrive to the Celtics practice facility earlier this week. Rondo has also been working out, passing a physical with flying colors, according to a Globe report . Avery Bradley  and Johnson were also reportedly present. …
It wouldn’t be the first time Rondo and Johnson worked out together, as the C’s first-round pick trained with the All-Star point guard at the University of Kentucky during the lockout. Here’s what Johnson told the Herald  of that meeting: “One of the things I was amazed by was how good a passer he is, and the decisions he makes. The thing that stood out from playing pickup was how well he could find people.” …
The complete Celtics schedule will be announced Tuesday night (NBA TV, 7 p.m.). Expect analysis here later …
With so many depressing scenarios surrounding the C’s free agency this year, here’s something that will cheer everybody up: After leaving Benetton Treviso  of the Italian League, Brian Scalabrine  is looking for a free agent deal with an NBA team. Who better to lift Celtics fans’ spirits than The Real Deal Veal himself?
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach  on Twitter.)