NEW YORK -- Come Thursday night, when the Miami Heat face the Nets for the first time since Brooklyn's league-shaking summer trade, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade think some former Boston Celtics on the Nets might owe the former Celtic on the Heat an apology.
A year ago, there was a stream of vitriol from Boston aimed at Ray Allen after he chose to sign with the Heat in the offseason. Kevin Garnett said he lost Allen's number, Paul Pierce said he hadn't forgiven him, and coach Doc Rivers implied Allen had an ego problem.
Now all three of them are also out of Boston, agreeing to go to teams seemingly on the brink of contention instead of sticking around for Boston's rebuilding project. Garnett waived his no-trade clause so he could go to Brooklyn in a package with Pierce. Rivers engineered his own trade that allowed him to become the coach of the Los Angeles Clippers.
All have said in various ways that it was a tough decision but that they wanted to move on to better situations.
That was essentially Allen's position in 2012, and James and Wade aren't afraid to hint at hypocrisy.
"I think the first thing I thought was, 'Wow, Ray got killed for leaving Boston, and now these guys are leaving Boston,'" James said. "I think it's OK; I didn't mind it. But there were a couple guys who basically [expletive] on Ray for leaving, and now they're leaving.
"That's the nature of our business, man. I don't know what Boston was going through at the end of the day. I know Ray had to make the best decision for him and his family and his career. Doc, KG and Paul did that as well. You can't criticize someone who does something that's best for their family."
James is sticking up for a teammate and taking a shot at some old Boston rivals in the process. But he's obviously sensitive on this topic because of personal experience. He was roundly criticized for leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010.
"I can relate to that; you think so? I'm the No. 1 relater," James said. "I've been through it all. I know all about it."
Wade has been slightly more diplomatic, but it is clear this has been a topic of conversation in the Heat locker room in the wake of the trade that sent the two future Hall of Famers to Brooklyn in July.
"We all know the world, how it works," Wade said. "The biggest thing is Ray is happy [in Miami]. If they're happy in Brooklyn, then let them be happy.
"People say things about people when they do something when they themselves would do the same thing. It's about putting yourself in the best situation, and at the end of the day, we all do that. You can't really say anything about someone that does it for themselves."
Pierce, Garnett and fellow ex-Celtic Jason Terry are three of James' biggest personal rivals in the league, and Wade has a history with them as well. The Heat and Nets play three times in the next two weeks, twice in the preseason and in Brooklyn's regular-season home opener Nov. 1.
It could be the start of a new rivalry in the Eastern Conference, replacing the once fiery Celtics-Heat rivalry. Like when Pierce, Garnett, Terry and even Allen wore green, the sides expect to see each other in the postseason.
"They have champions on their team, they have gold medalists on their team, they have guys who have been through a lot," James said. "It should be fun playing against them throughout the regular season and possibly in the playoffs."