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More than eight teams in mix for Courtney Lee

07.09.12 at 7:41 pm ET
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Courtney Lee and the Celtics have mutual interest in working out a deal, but there may be as many as eight other teams involved. (AP)

ORLANDO — Free agent guard Courtney Lee was talking with Pistons’ coach Lawrence Frank during the Orlando Summer League when the one-time Celtics’ assistant asked how many teams were after him since the Rockets rescinded their qualifying offer and made him an unrestricted free agent. Lee started down the list of suitors, but there were so many he lost track.

“My brain froze so I couldn’t tell him all the teams,” Lee said. “There’s more than eight teams. Once they pulled my qualifying offer and made me unrestricted the phone kept ringing.”

One of those teams is the Celtics. Lee met with Doc Rivers over the weekend and the two expressed mutual interest in Lee coming to Boston.

“There was no verbal agreement or anything, we’re just hearing each other out,” Lee said. “They expressed their interest. I expressed my interest. It’s not basketball wise, there needs to be discussions with the front offices and my agent. They need to communicate and go from there.”

Asked how he would characterize the nature of discussions with the Celtics, Lee said, “I wouldn’t know how to characterize it. I have a great relationship with Doc from the first time I stepped on an NBA court. I would say our meeting went well. As far as characterizing where I’m at with the team; coach and player-wise we’re on the same page.”

Lee’s agent is Dan Fegan, who is well aware that it’s a buyer’s market for shooting guards. His message: Stay patient. Lee understands the situation he’s in and he knows that if he is to work out a deal with the Celtics it would require some maneuvering. The Celtics are over the cap, so any deal with Lee would have to be worked out in a sign-and-trade arrangement with the Rockets.

“There’s other ways,” he said. “You know Houston and [GM] Darryl Morey, he loves draft picks and that’s one thing you can do with a sign-and-trade.”

Any sign-and-trade deal would require a contract of three years with 4.5 percent raises built in. This is where it gets tricky, but if the Celtics stay under the luxury tax — not the $4 million apron, but the tax itself — they can accept 150 percent of the value they send out. In other words, if they can build a package worth around $3 million, they could start a three-year contract with Lee for $4.5 million. (Those numbers are hypothetical. No trade parameters are known yet.)

Lee mentioned the Mavericks as a possibility, but they would be looking at a one-year deal for more money to keep their cap options open for the following season. That’s a good fallback if he can’t get a long-term contract, but there are surely other teams who have their eyes on him.

The 6-foot-5 Lee is the kind of versatile guard who would be good on any team, but would be extremely valuable on a contending squad. He’s split his time between starting and coming off the bench, but from his rookie season with the Magic in 2008-09, he’s always been a valuable rotation player, averaging about 30 minutes a night. The Celtics became well-acquainted with Lee during the 2009 playoffs when Orlando eliminated them in seven games.

“I want to win,” Lee said. “I got a taste of the playoffs and going to the finals my rookie year and I want to get back there. Everybody knows [the Celtics'] record and what they’ve accomplished over the years, especially with Doc and having KG and Paul [Pierce] and all those guys. [Rajon] Rondo’s still there. That’s a team that I feel that will win and continue to win. That’s one factor in the decision.”

The Celtics have a need not only for a shooting guard, but specifically a guard like Lee. With Ray Allen now in Miami and Avery Bradley facing another shoulder surgery on Tuesday, their depth is thin in the backcourt behind Rondo and Jason Terry, who agreed to terms on a mid-level deal.

Lee is not only an excellent defensive guard, he’s also a deadly 3-point shooter, making better than 40 percent of his attempts in three of his four seasons. He’s particularly effective on corner 3′s, where he made almost 50 percent of his attempts, the second-best mark in the league — a tick behind Allen’s 50 percent. There’s an obvious role for Lee with the Celtics and he’s not intimidated by their group of stars.

“It’s competition. That’s what some people don’t realize or give up on. I don’t want anything promised or given,” he said. “That’s why we’re in this free agency now, I just want what’s earned.”

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