Free-agent buzz: O’Neal eyes Celtics

Free-agent center Jermaine O’Neal(notes) is leaning toward signing a contract with the Boston Celtics, but still hasn’t reached a final decision, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

O’Neal, 31, has narrowed his choices to the Celtics and Denver Nuggets, sources said. The Dallas Mavericks have been a strong consideration, too.

The Celtics and Nuggets are believed to have offered O’Neal near the midlevel exception of $5.8 million over two seasons, sources said.

O’Neal still had plans late Wednesday to talk with a couple of Celtics players about family issues, such as schools and areas to live.

Boston needs a center to help fill in for Kendrick Perkins(notes), who is expected to be out five to six months with a severe knee injury. Rasheed Wallace(notes) also has indicated he plans to retire. The Celtics also reached agreement on a two-year, $20 million contract with Ray Allen(notes) on Wednesday, five days after giving Paul Pierce(notes) a four-year, $61 million extension.

O’Neal could make his decision sometime Wednesday night or Thursday, sources said.

O’Neal averaged 13.6 points and 6.9 rebounds for the Heat last season.

– Adrian Wojnarowski, 9:40 p.m. ET, July 6


Nets assess options

After losing out on Carlos Boozer(notes) to the Chicago Bulls, the New Jersey Nets have targeted three players in discussions: Tyrus Thomas(notes), Travis Outlaw(notes) and Kyle Korver(notes), league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

The Nets have $30 million in cap space, but aren’t under great pressure to use it all. They’re holding out a faint hope for LeBron James(notes), but with no running mate in New Jersey, James is destined to sign with Cleveland, Miami or New York.

New Jersey made an offer for $75 million over five years for Boozer, but Boozer’s agent Rob Pelinka went back to the Bulls and received an $80 million deal.

The Nets have a strong interest in Knicks forward David Lee(notes), but they’re still waiting for the sign-and-trade market to shake down for him.

Thomas is a restricted free agent that the Nets have long been intrigued with, and a frontloaded offer sheet could put him out of reach of the Bobcats. The Nets could make offers quickly for Korver and Outlaw, who are unrestricted free agents, source say.

– Adrian Wojnarowski, 9:40 p.m. ET, July 6


Magic favorites to keep Redick

Restricted free-agent guard J.J. Redick(notes) is drawing interest from the New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls, but the Orlando Magic are still favored to keep him, league sources said.

The Magic would have seven days to match any offer sheet Redick signs with another team.

– Adrian Wojnarowski, 9:40 p.m. ET, July 6


Celtics to re-sign Allen

Ray Allen(notes) has reached agreement on a two-year, $20 million contract with the Boston Celtics, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Allen is scheduled to make $10 million in each season of the deal. The second year is at his option.

Allen’s agreement comes five days after the Celtics agreed to give Paul Pierce(notes) a four-year, $61 million extension.

– Marc J. Spears, 9:29 p.m. ET, July 6


Boozer lands $80 million deal from Bulls

The Chicago Bulls have reached agreement with Carlos Boozer(notes) on a five-year contract worth $80 million, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

The Bulls moved quickly to secure a commitment from Boozer after Dwyane Wade(notes) decided to re-sign with the Miami Heat and bring Chris Bosh(notes) with him.

Boozer joins a talented young core that includes point guard Derrick Rose(notes) and center Joakim Noah(notes). The Bulls also have enough salary-cap room left to sign another player to a maximum contract.

Boozer mentioned the Bulls last summer as a team in which he hoped to be traded. Three of his six seasons with the Utah Jazz were cut short by injuries, but he missed just four games last season while averaging 19.5 points and 11.2 rebounds.

– Adrian Wojnarowski, 4:55 p.m. ET, July 7


Wade, Bosh commit to Heat

Dwyane Wade(notes) and Chris Bosh(notes) have decided to sign with the Miami Heat while continuing to recruit LeBron James(notes) to help them form an All-Star triumvirate that threatens to shift the NBA’s balance of power, two sources with knowledge of the plans told Yahoo! Sports.

“They think they’ve got a real chance to pull this off with LeBron,” a league source said.

Said an official with one team that made a formal presentation to James: “It’s down to Cleveland or Miami for him.”

Still, other league executives weren’t yet ready to rule out the Knicks.

The three players shared a call after midnight on Wednesday, when Wade and Bosh told James they were committing to the Heat, a source said. James didn’t commit with them, but kept his own plans private for a television announcement on Thursday night. Wade and Bosh formally announced their decision on Wednesday afternoon.

“I’m so glad it’s over,” Wade said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I had to do what was best for me. And I know I did that.”

Wade and Bosh decided they needed to make a commitment to give them the best possible chance of luring more talent – including James – with the additional salary-cap space in Miami.

Had James been able to convince Bosh to come to Cleveland in a sign-and-trade, sources said Wade had decided he would leave Miami for the Chicago Bulls.

Only now, the Heat need to dump more salary – namely, Michael Beasley(notes) – to get more space to sign James. If Wade takes a max deal, his salary will start at $16.5 million next season – which leaves just under $30 million under the cap for Bosh and James. The Heat would look to move Beasley’s $4.9 million to a team with cap space to create more room.

If James doesn’t come, the Heat are targeting free agent Mike Miller(notes) to take part of the third salary slot with Wade and Bosh. Wade has been personally pushing Miller to Heat president Pat Riley, sources said. Miller has Miami at the top of his list, sources close to him said. New York, Chicago and the Los Angeles Clippers are also among his most aggressive pursuers.

With Bosh and Wade committed, the Chicago Bulls moved quickly to reach agreement on a five-year, $80 million contract with Carlos Boozer. The New Jersey Nets were also in talks with Boozer and may now try to sign David Lee.

ESPN first reported Wade and Bosh’s plans.

– Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears, 9:10 a.m. ET, July 7


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Updated Wednesday, Jul 7, 2010