The Celtics have wasted no time reaching out to free agents who fit their defensive mold, including Reggie Evans, who said yesterday he was “honored’’ by their interest.
Evans could be an instant salve to the Celtics’ rebounding woes. The rugged, 6-foot-9-inch forward is a solid interior defender with a mean streak.
Perennially one of the league leaders in rebounds per minute, Evans grabbed a career-best 11.5 per game last season for the Raptors. He has played just 58 games over the past two years because of injuries, including foot surgery last season, but said he is healthy.
Teams can begin signing free agents on Friday.
“I was kind of surprised when they reached out to me,’’ Evans said. “It was an honor, especially with the kind of players they have on their team.’’
The Celtics are in desperate need of big men who can rebound, and while Evans is deficient offensively, he has spent his career being a spark plug off the bench. He has averaged 6.9 rebounds over his nine-year career despite averaging just 19.5 minutes. And he said he has spent considerable time at center, especially the last two seasons when Andrea Bargnani proved better at forward.
“[The Celtics] are a tough-minded team and I am a tough-minded player,’’ said Evans, who was a teammate of Ray Allen’s in Seattle. “I don’t really take too much on the court and they really don’t take too much on the court. So that’s why I used to love to play against them so much because they used to remind me of myself, knowing their competitive nature and they don’t take any plays off. I liked to play against them.’’
At 31, Evans is seeking a bit of security, and a chance to win a championship after advancing beyond the first round of the playoffs just once.
“I want to win a title so bad,’’ he said. “I know I’m not getting younger in the league, so I want a chance to win. I want to weigh out all my options because I got the right attitude, I’m not trying to go to a team and start shooting the ball. I just want to see if there’s a need for me out there.’’
The Celtics also have had conversations about Lakers swingman Shannon Brown, Bobcats center Kwame Brown, and former Celtic Marquis Daniels, whose season was cut short when he suffered a bruised spinal cord in a Feb. 6 collision with Magic guard Gilbert Arenas.
“It’s something we’re talking about,’’ said agent Mark Bartelstein, who represents all three. “We’re having conversations. Nothing’s been decided yet. We’ll kind of see what happens here over the next couple days.
“It’s early, everyone’s just kind of getting their ducks in order. Danny [Ainge] and I talk every day and those are guys that we’re certainly talking about.’’
The Celtics will likely try to find bargains, using the $3 million midlevel exception for teams over the cap.
“I think they’re just seeing what’s out there,’’ said Bartelstein. “Danny’s always very aggressive and he always does a really good job of getting a feel for the market.’’
Avery Bradley hopped a red-eye from Seattle to get to the Celtics’ practice facility yesterday afternoon, and sounded disappointed he wasn’t able to arrive sooner.
The 21-year-old guard knows he has to make up for lost time. An ankle injury forced him to sit out summer league and training camp before his rookie year. And the 149-day lockout cost him another summer league and will cut camp and the preseason short.
“It’s tough,’’ he said. “I didn’t get a chance to play summer league for the second time. But I got experience playing overseas, so I took as much as I can out of that.
“This year, I’m hoping that I can help my team out a little bit more. I’m going to be ready to play, do whatever Doc [Rivers] says, and I’m coming in here going hard.’’
Bradley worked out with players in Las Vegas over the summer, played three games for a team in Israel, then spent time in Orlando with Rivers.
“I feel like if someone has trust in you off the court, they’ll be able to trust you on the court,’’ said Bradley. “That was the main thing for me, to just build that relationship with Doc, let him know how much I want to play. I feel like he’s seen that, now I just have to prove it on the court. When I come in here from Day One, I have to go hard and show him that I improved over the summer, and not only that, but I’m looking to improve throughout the year.’’
Rajon Rondo was also in Waltham to work out, but declined to talk to the media in the midst of recent trade rumors. First round-pick JaJuan Johnson is expected to drop by the practice facility today.
Let’s play two
The Celtics announced their two-game preseason schedule, a home-and-home against the Raptors. The Celtics will travel to the Air Canada Centre Dec. 18, and the Raptors will visit to TD Garden Dec. 21.Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.