Ray Allen, Celtics need to cease fire
With season opener near, the sniping and griping should end once and for all
MIAMI -- Someday, whether it is later in this regular season or in five years before an honorary ceremony, Ray Allen and the Boston Celtics are going to apologize to each other for their behavior over the past few months.
The back-and-forth sniping that has taken place since the start of training camp hasn't just been undignified, it has been childish at times. It has put a disappointing tarnish on the five-year run Allen had with the Celtics when he had a full share in giving rebirth to a storied franchise.
Right now, in the midst of the most intense rivalry the NBA has going at the moment, the Celtics and Allen are clearly wrapped up in emotion. Tuesday night's season opener in Miami has become more about Allen versus his ex-teammates than it has the Heat's ring ceremony.
Kevin Garnett has said he lost Allen's phone number. Rajon Rondo won't say Allen's name in interviews, referring to him only as "No. 20." Doc Rivers and Allen have each accused the other of bad phone manners during the free-agent process. Allen has dragged up three-year-old stories and anti-Rondo rhetoric, trotting them out in prearranged media interviews.
Is this professional basketball or a high school breakup?
"Ray is the ultimate professional, he should be an example for every young player who comes into this league."
That was what Rivers said when Allen broke the NBA's 3-point record earlier this year, when he was the toast of Boston and his number was ticketed for the rafters of the Garden. Last week in an interview, Rivers accused Allen's ego of getting in the way during the exact same time period he was celebrating his record-breaking success.
Frankly, though, neither side is clean in this.
Allen was so offended by being demoted to the bench midseason -- a Rivers lineup maneuver that ended up paying significant dividends -- and being used as a trade chip before the deadline that by April he already was dropping hints he was planning to bolt as a free agent and had eyes on Miami.
After the Celtics were eliminated in Game 7 by the Heat in the conference finals, Allen announced he intended to continue his career as if he was already on a job interview in the Heat's building. By that time, though, the Heat had gotten the back-channel messages and were honing their free-agent pitch.
When he did become a free agent, the Celtics didn't exactly keep their financial offer close to the vest and it soon surfaced in the media. The negotiations with other Celtics free agents such as Kevin Garnett, Jeff Green and Jason Terry weren't public but the two-year offer of $12 million to Allen became so quickly. It was nearly twice what the Heat could offer over the same time frame, which had good value from a public relations standpoint when Allen expectedly turned it down.
When the deal was done in Miami, which ended up being one year for $3 million with a player option, the Celtics said they were disappointed but they didn't say they were surprised. Last season they paid Allen $10 million and he averaged 14 points and shot 45 percent from 3-point range but struggled defensively in part because of an ankle injury that caused him to miss 20 games. In the playoffs, Allen shot only 31 percent from 3-point range.
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This offseason the Celtics split that $10 million by giving $5 million each to Courtney Lee and Terry. It's a fair bet those newcomers will combine to surpass the numbers Allen put up. It also cleared the way for Avery Bradley, who flourished last season, to start in Allen's old spot.
For the Heat, they added a great 3-point shooter to a lineup where he may get the most open shots of his career. Allen will come off the bench but probably will be on the floor to end many games. And Allen is only the ninth-highest paid player on the roster. This is a bargain by any measure.
So both teams feel pretty good about the way it worked out. So why all the venom when so many otherwise respectable people known for smart decisions were involved in making some? There is no real reason and that eventually will cut through the rawness.
From a viewer standpoint, all this recent hubbub certainly will give Tuesday's game extra edge. Will the Heat look to set up Allen for a few early 3-pointers to help him send a message? Will Garnett scoot out and hit Allen with one of his famous screens? Will Rondo attempt to show up his former teammate with one of his trademark fake behind-the-back passes? Who will and won't shake hands after the game? It should be fun to watch.
Then everyone involved should move on and start acting like the Hall-of-Famers most will be.