- Jackie MacMullan, ESPNBoston.com columnist
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Let's just say Doc Rivers is there.
While the sting of Allen's departure lingers among the Celtics' loyal fan base, Allen's former team has turned the page. Stick 'em with a syringe of truth serum and they will admit Ray remains one of the most feared pure shooters when the game is on the line, but when it comes to the day-to-day success and harmony of their team, the Celtics' veterans have embraced the duo of Lee and Terry as a more-than-adequate substitute.
"The combination of the two really excites me," Rivers said. "I love Courtney Lee. He's a very good player. I know that sounds very simple, but it's true. He does things well. He's a good defender, a great team defender, and he shoots the ball very well. He was second best behind the 3-point line after Ray. I don't think people realize how good a shooter he is.
"The thing I like the most about him is he's always fit in wherever he's gone. He accepts his role and goes out and plays. That's hard to come by."
It has become apparent that in Allen's final months in Boston he was increasingly disenchanted with his place among the veteran hierarchy. He preferred to start but was asked to come off the bench, and did so without a single public complaint. He was wounded by revelations that Boston nearly dealt him to Memphis at the trade deadline. The ever accountable veteran chafed at fellow superstar Kevin Garnett's unwillingness to take on some of the extra media and promotional requests that inevitably landed in Allen's lap.
When it came time to talk contract extension, Allen felt slighted that he was not a priority. His deteriorating relationship with Rondo, meanwhile, was one of the worst-kept secrets on the team.
"It's just not right to put it all on Rondo," Rivers said. "Ray didn't leave because of Rondo. He left because of Ray.
"He wanted the ball more. He wanted a bunch of different things. He didn't feel loved. That doesn't make Ray a bad guy.
"I needed to take some responsibility for [his unhappiness]. I made some of the decisions on how we should use Ray, and I would say Ray played pretty well in the role we drew up for him.
"What it came down to was I felt I'd rather have the ball in Rajon's hands. That was Ray's problem, not Rajon's. Rondo was the guy with the ball. It's not his fault."
Rivers said he was aware Allen was less than enthused about his role with the Celtics last season, but was surprised at the number of issues his former golfing partner expressed on his way out the door.
"When you have a lot of complaints, you probably need to go somewhere else," Rivers said. "Sometimes guys just run their course at a place. It's probably best for all of us and for Ray that he moves on."
Terry arrives in Boston in the wake of a similar scenario. He too felt underappreciated by a team (the Dallas Mavericks) that he helped to win a championship.
"Jason is a motivated guy," Rivers said. "He's always been that. We needed another player who could score off the dribble, who could play in the pick-and-roll. Rondo could do it, Paul [Pierce] too, and we used Ray a little, but that was one of the things he was unhappy about. He wanted us to do it more, and I just didn't think he was as good at it."
Rondo has emerged as Boston's most versatile, volatile, valuable and vexing star. While Rivers has been candid in the past when his point guard allowed his stubborness to overtake him (such as when he contemplated boycotting the All-Star Game last season after initially not being chosen and later added as an injury replacement), his coach said the 26-year-old point guard continues to grow on the job.
"Rondo has been great, just terrific this summer," Rivers said. "He reached out to all the players and got every single one of them to fly to L.A. and practice together. They put in about four or five hours a day. Paul and KG were already out there, but Rondo got Jason and Courtney Lee and all the other guys on board too.
"He called and asked me what I thought of the idea. I loved it, especially because it was him that organized it."
The spirited practices at UCLA were useful not only because of all the new faces. They gave the players a chance to spend some time together away from Boston and reestablish some camaraderie.
Bradley was not among the players in Los Angeles. His double shoulder surgery probably will sideline him until at least December and possibly until the first of the year.
Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox, both recovered from heart surgery, are ready to go full tilt. Big man Fab Melo is a raw rookie with limited offensive skills who will have to bide his time. Former Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger plummeted to the No. 21 pick in the draft because of questions about his back and skepticism that an undersized power forward can flourish in the NBA. Through the years, Charles Barkley has proved to be the exception, not the rule.
"I don't worry about that," Rivers said. "I'm not saying he's going to be a star or anything. I have no idea.
"My job is to put him on the floor with a chance to succeed. If KG is on the floor with him, then the bigger guy will have to guard Garnett. And if Jared gets a smaller guy, he's going to destroy him. If he has to play some bigger guys, that will be harder. Let's see what happens."
Rivers remains cautiously intrigued by Danny Ainge's most recent signing, former No. 2 pick Darko Milicic, whom Pistons general manager Joe Dumars drafted ahead of Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh in 2003. Milicic was a bust in Detroit and has become a well-traveled journeyman with stops in Orlando, Memphis, New York (eight games) and Minnesota. He languished with the Timberwolves last season as questions about his work ethic and focus persisted. Boston has taken a flyer on him for the veteran's minimum.
"It didn't cost us much," Rivers said. "He has it in him, and if we can get it out of him, then great. If not, well, I'd rather take a chance on a really talented guy."
The coach still believes his team was a few plays away from being in the NBA Finals last season. He will forge on toward that goal without the most prolific 3-point shooter in history, opening camp on Friday knowing full well his team has drawn a bull's-eye on the Miami Heat and Ray Allen.
"I'm very excited," Rivers said. "I like our team, but then, I like our team every year on paper.
"I can't wait to get in the gym and see if I like them on the floor."
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