Green days done, Allen fits Miami
MIAMI -- For those who've grown accustomed to Ray Allen in a Boston Celtics uniform, those who've come to appreciate the artistry that was the Boston offense when Allen masterfully used screens to find open spaces, the idea of him being a "fit" with the Miami Heat might not register as easily.
For those who've simply been fans of Allen, or are fond of pure rivalries and believe in never crossing enemy lines, the concept of Allen fitting in snugly with the Heat is downright profane.
But when you remove all shades of green -- that's Celtics green and the envy felt from other teams watching the defending champs get even better -- you start to realize just how perfect a match this is.
It's not just that Allen, the league's all-time leader in 3-pointers made, will be spacing the floor for two of the league's most threatening penetrators.
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It's the meshing of a man whose family is ever-present with an organization that preaches family as much as any other in the league.
It's the common bond he suddenly shares with LeBron James and Chris Bosh and, by association, the entire Heat roster because he left a familiar organization and is already being disparaged by his former fan base.
Allen, and to a slightly lesser extent Rashard Lewis, makes perfect sense in a Miami Heat uniform.
"The type of guys we're looking for, no doubt about it, not everbody's a good fit here," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Ray's a perfect fit."
In the five years Allen was in Boston, the balance on that roster was as ideal as anyone could imagine. With Allen, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, you had four All-Star caliber players with almost no duplication in their respective games.
It not only made for beautiful music on the offensive end at times, but it was a group committed to defense as well, making that core the envy of many around the league.
In Miami, though, the idea of traditional balance left when LeBron James arrived. Meshing two explosive wing scorers like James and Dwyane Wade while using a big man in Chris Bosh as floor spreader doesn't exactly fall in line with basketball convention.
That's the beauty of Allen. His greatest skill, the outside shooting, is one that can fit in with any system, of course.
Allen isn't as spry as he once was, nor will he be asked to perform at the level he did for those teams. But this is still the player who bragged loudly after the 2001 All-Star Game about shutting down power forward Antonio McDyess during his East team's comeback victory.
He doesn't want to be pigeonholed if he can avoid it, so the idea of playing for a Heat team that's touting the concept of being "position-less" sounds great to Allen.
It's probably why he and Spoelstra were in the coach's office chatting for about two hours last Thursday when Allen visited the Heat for the first time. They were gone so long, Riley started wondering where they were.
"Man, we talked about every basketball philosophy that we shared," Allen said. "To a point where he said, 'Well, I don't know if you're coming, but I'll just tell you this anyway.'
"That was similar to how we played in Seattle, get the ball up the floor, spread the floor, attack the basket and make the easy, extra pass. That's what Miami did to us the last couple years, and they got even better at it this year."
It wasn't until the NBA Finals that the Heat looked exactly like the team Riley envisioned when he brought them together, a team living off the penetration of James and Wade while knocking down one open 3 after the next.
Now with Allen and Lewis in the mix, it should only become more difficult to defend.
But Allen and Lewis also slide in perfectly with the culture Riley has spent the past 17 years instituting.
Not only are both family men, but Allen's wife and Lewis' wife were good friends when the two men played in Seattle. Lewis played in Orlando for Stan Van Gundy, a Riley disciple in many ways, and Allen is from a military background and appreciates structure and hard work.
But most of all, the additions of Allen and Lewis fit in so well with the Heat's repeat efforts because they add new dynamics that re-energize a team that seemingly couldn't have been happier or more determined than they were just three weeks ago.
The last time the Heat tried defending a title, Riley brought back almost the exact same roster as the 2006 team's that won the championship.
The start of the season, with a handful of players who went from feeling desperate to feeling entitled, was a near disaster. And through the end, with a shoulder injury to Wade making matters more difficult, they were never able to replicate the level of desire needed to make another serious run.
This time around, Riley has already added two players who can keep that from happening again.
In Allen, the Heat have a champion who has experienced a failed repeat attempt and understands the pitfalls (he joins Wade and Udonis Haslem as players who've been there).
And in Lewis, the Heat added a ring-less veteran that can be a source of motivation for all those who've already pocketed at least one.
Riley knows both the successful and unsuccessful side of trying to repeat. So he's learned his lessons.
"Ray and I had a good conversation about this," Riley said. "Some of the reasons why it happens entitlement, being comfortable. All of a sudden players expect more of this, more of that. It's not the same feeling.
"We've got to raise the bar. It's not an easy thing. What we didn't do back then [in 2006-07] is we didn't add people like Ray, or Rashard, or like last year when we added Shane [Battier]. Probably that was my mistake. You've got to keep adding to it."
Ideally, you add players who slide right into the game plan, which Allen and Lewis certainly do.
And you add players with extreme motivation. Lewis' is simple: win his first ring, while proving his past two injury-prone seasons were anomalies.
For Allen, it'll include proving the Celtics wrong for not making him a higher priority. And soon enough he'll learn that being hated -- as it would appear he suddenly is in Boston for joining the enemy -- is part of regular business in Miami.
"I've given so much, not only on the floor but off the floor, so I think there's a sense of sadness and hurt, I think, that the people feel," Allen said. "And we feel that, too, as a family. We feel the sense of loss that we'll have by not being in that community, and that's understandable."
So you see, once you get past the idea that Allen left a team he won a championship with to join what was his most bitter rival (that's easy to do, right?), you start to see why Allen to the Heat made so much sense. Throw Lewis in that mix, and it already makes for an ideal offseason for the Heat.
That's a thought not many outside of Miami want to hear. But here they go again.