I completely understand why Ray Allen chose to sign with the Miami Heat.
He gets to go to a team that will contend for a championship every year for the rest of his career, his game is made easier for his aging legs as he’ll likely have many more open, spot-up jumpers with the Heat, and not running through multiple screens to get open. He’s going to Miami, where he can play golf year-round, and enjoy the weather and beaches for the final years of his Hall of Fame, lucrative NBA career.
Can’t argue with any of that. I don’t have any issue really, with his decision, other than the personal disappointment that he will now be with a team I can’t stand.
While I’m sure those items above were a big part of Allen’s decision to leave the Celtics and sign with the team that knocked them out of the playoffs the last two seasons, it seems clear that the biggest factor in his decision was the chance to stick it to the Celtics.
I’m already tired of the “will Ray Allen get booed storyline” on sports talk radio and TV. At this point, I’m more interested in seeing what Danny Ainge does now to add to his backcourt. From a team standpoint, I’m not even all that broken up over losing him. The Celtics needed to move on at some point, and paying Ray Allen $12 million over the next two years seemed a bit too much. Hopefully Ainge can find a steal in the free agent market, someone who can contribute in ways that perhaps Ray couldn’t at this point in his career.
Ray Allen put in five very productive seasons for the Boston Celtics, and I appreciated him for it. All along though, I think we knew this was a guy who is wired a bit differently from certainly the rest of us, but even from most NBA players.
There were references to OCD, which given the strictness and thoroughness of his routines, was something that even Allen didn’t dismiss. I tend to think anyone who is wildly successful at what they do, especially if it is a specific skill has to be wired a bit differently from the rest of us, so it’s no reflection on character.
But what has been coming out since this news broke has been a series of alternately intriguing and head-scratching tales of things that bothered Allen so much here in Boston that he chose to walk to the team that at the moment, is their biggest, and most hated rival for half of what the Celtics were offering to pay him.
Most of the material was provided by the peerless Adrian Wojnarowski, (Heat gave Ray Allen reason to again feel wanted) who wrote on Saturday about Allen:
He hated the way Ainge dangled him in trade talks, hated that the Celtics told him he was on his way to Memphis in a deal at the March deadline only to have Rivers later tell him the trade was dead. Allen hated that Rivers didn’t give him his starting job back after he returned from a late-season ankle injury, and hated that it always felt like he was the Celtics star made to sacrifice above the rest.
We had heard during the season that it was Ray’s idea that Avery Bradley start. Either it wasn’t true, or he changed his mind when he saw that Bradley could actually play and how that might impact his own future. Then there were the issues with Rondo.
The friction started in the 2009-10 season, after Rondo signed his five-year, $55 million extension, sources said. It wouldn’t be long until Allen started to hear his name in trade talks, and he began to make the correlation that Rondo’s salary played a part in the Celtics looking to trim payroll – starting with Allen.
Rondo’s contract is one of the most team-friendly deals in the NBA, yet Allen begrudged him on it? As for the trade talks, I’ve heard a lot of “Well, the Celtics tried to trade him, why should he show any loyalty to them?” Yeah, I get that, but most NBA players have their names in trade talks at some point or another. Allen has been traded twice in his career already. It’s part of the business. Most players seem to understand that.
So besides Rondo’s contract, what were the personal issues?
“When it comes to basketball, Rondo is the smartest player on the team – one of the smartest players in the league,” one locker-room source said. “And Ray considers himself a smart guy. But at some point, it became hard for Ray to be corrected by a guy so much younger than him.”
Was Ray being corrected because he was wrong, or because Rondo just wanted things done his way? Wojnarowski acknowledges that they were also polar opposites in personality, and that was an issue. He says though, that Allen was discussing these issues with associates, to the point that Celtics management became concerned.
Was it just Rondo?
Within the Big Three, they teased Allen for his political nature. Whereas Rondo, Pierce and Garnett would speak in brutal, honest terms, Allen was forever measured, even.
He didn’t like to be teased by his teammates? Gary Washburn, in yesterday’s Globe had Doc Rivers revealing another nugget about Allen’s unhappiness:
Rivers hinted that perhaps the Celtics first courting Kevin Garnett to return may have irritated Allen, who may not have felt he was a priority.
“I thought we did [pursue him],” Rivers said. “[President of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] in particular did exactly what he should have done. Kevin Garnett was our focal point, and he should have been. If that got anyone ruffled, then that’s probably too bad. We did everything that we’re supposed to do.
“[Allen] had his reasons. I think emotionally he probably got bent sideways a little bit by us courting Kevin, for some reason. I don’t know, honestly.
This is where it sort of gets silly. Of course KG was the Celtics number-one priority. For Allen to think he should’ve been seems ridiculous.
So because of all of these slights, and because the Heat laid out the red carpet for him, Allen decided to stick it to the Celtics, Wojnarowski writes:
Yet, it turns out Allen’s trip to South Beach made him feel so wanted, so inspired, and, truth be told, so eager to stick it to the Celtics. He could’ve broken Boston’s hearts and left for anywhere, but clearly there’s a part of Allen that wants to exact some kind of revenge on the Celtics. There was nowhere else to do that but Miami.
Ray Allen has always been portrayed as the ultimate professional. His preparation for his craft is beyond reproach. He was always available to the media, and willing to talk after a win or a loss.Interestingly, over the weekend, while this news was hot, NBATV was replaying the series The Association when it featured the Celtics in the 2010-2011 season.I had forgotten how prominent Ray Allen was in that series. He was the go-to guy for the camera. They followed him when he showed up four hours before every game, they went to his house for Christmas, and later he talked about the Perkins trade. He and KG and Pierce talked about their special bond and what it meant to play together and win together. Watching it, just hours after learning of Allen’s decision to sign with the Heat, was incredibly surreal.
This process has revealed another side of Ray Allen. A dark side. One that let jealousy and petty feuds consume him. One that was insecure, and overly sensitive. One that apparently had a lot of internal turmoil that he didn’t allow the media or public to see, but festered to the point where he wanted to stick it to the Boston Celtics and their fans in the worst possible way.
When he is introduced by the Heat later this week, I have no doubt that he will say the right things, and suggest that this decision was strictly about business. That he is doing what is best for the business of Ray Allen and his family.
On the surface, he can make that argument, and it is a plausible one. I’m not buying it. This wasn’t business for Ray Allen It was personal.
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