Celtics set to keep Pierce

The Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks move quickly to secure their franchise stalwarts Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki.

Paul Pierce, in action for the Boston Celtics last season, is expected to stay with the team next season.
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The Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks moved quickly to secure franchise stalwarts Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki, and Dwyane Wade's sudden flirtation with the Chicago Bulls almost took the spotlight off LeBron James on day two of the NBA's free-agent chase. Wade had a second meeting with the Bulls on Friday, injecting an element of doubt into assumptions that the gifted guard would stay with the Miami Heat.

"Things are getting very interesting," Wade said after spending more than two hours with Bulls officials in Chicago. Amare Stoudemire, formerly of the Phoenix Suns, apparently is on the move. Not only did he have a long meeting with the New York Knicks, the Suns have committed to long deals with two players who play his position, power forward. Pierce and Nowitzki, however, apparently will not be moving at all.

The Celtics were reported by espn.com to be close to a four-year deal with Pierce for at least US$60 million (Dh220m). The 32-year-old guard has spent all 12 years of his career with the Celtics. Nowitzki holds a similar distinction in Dallas, where he also has put in 12 seasons. The Mavericks were thought to be close to a four-year, $96m deal with the prolific forward from Germany. The grand prize in the greatest player chase in NBA history is James, the two-time Most Valuable Player, and the Heat would like to bring him to Miami to join Wade.

James and Heat officials met for nearly three hours. Pat Riley, the Heat president, said: "This is a very fluid process. We've had five meetings across the country in the span of 40 hours. We will continue with the process." James also granted an audience to the Los Angeles Clippers, who are considered long shots to secure the MVP's services. James was expected to meet yesterday with the Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers, his club for seven years. James has indicated he will need at least a week to make a decision in a process that began on Thursday.

Stoudemire's agent said the high-scoring forward had ceased negotiations with the Suns, who signed the forwards Channing Frye and Hakim Warrick in an attempt to replace the points Stoudemire is taking with him. Warrick agreed to a four-year, $18m deal on Friday, shortly after Frye agreed to a five-year, $30m offer to re-sign with the Suns. The Milwaukee Bucks made another move, agreeing in principle to a $40m, five-year deal with the guard John Salmons.

Steve Blake, a point guard free agent, said he had penned a four-year, $16m deal to join the LA Lakers, the defending champions. Blake may displace Derek Fisher in the starting five and make the looming departure of Jordan Farmar a painless experience. Deals cannot be signed until July 8, after the salary cap for next season has been determined. * Agencies