I’ll admit: I wasn’t so sure about the Ray Allen trade when it initially broke, back in June of 2007.
At the time, I was very much a college basketball fan before I was a Celtics one, meaning I was disappointed to see #5 pick and former Hoya Jeff Green shuttled off to Seattle in favor of some older guy I’d barely gotten a chance to watch. I’d heard of Allen, of course, but I—along with most people, apparently—didn’t exactly choose to tune in to Sonics games for fun.
But, when I first witnessed him at work, Jesus Shuttlesworth immediately converted me.
Since then, #20′s silky-smooth, OCD-fueled jumper has always been, in my eyes, the single most beautiful thing in sports. It’s perfection personified, over and over and over again.
After the Celts claimed an NBA title in Allen and Kevin Garnett’s first year, I unsurprisingly grew to like Ray (and the rest of the team) even more. Two knockouts by the Miami Heat later, though, and he’s crossed over to the dark side. And, my own personal feelings and rooting interests aside here, the move just doesn’t feel right.
To sum up, Allen’s decision ultimately came down to two options. He could either re-up with the Celtics for two years, $12 million and take the backseat to the favored Avery Bradley, or he could take a paycut for the Heat in a three-year deal, which would likewise see him squeezed out of the main rotation. Maybe the decision was much more complicated than it seems—there were rumors post-mortem that Allen’s strained relationship with Rajon Rondo was a factor, for example—but it would appear as if the choice was one of championships vs. loyalty plus a bigger paycheck.
Normally we tend to praise athletes who’ll sacrifice money in pursuit of a ring. But in this scenario, I’m not sure that that same reaction is called for.
Miami might not lose a single key player from its championship-winning roster, and though a lot is riding on what happens with Dwight Howard this summer, a repeat was already a strong possibility. Add Allen, and it’s really not even fair. “Sign here,” Pat Riley might as well have said, “and we win.”
If all Ray wanted was a second ring, then by all means he made the right choice. On the other hand, if he wanted that ring to actually mean something, then I’d have to say he chose wrong.
The Celtics may have been eliminated by the Heat in two straight years, but things looked to be on the up-and-up for the Boys in Green before Allen’s departure—Jason Terry is set to take his talents to Beantown, some low-post bulk was added in Jared Sullinger, and Jeff Green and the aforementioned Bradley should finally be healthy. The original “Big 3” might have been getting old, but another run could still have been in the cards.
It would have been a challenge, for sure, but that’s part of the fun of it, right? After all, where’s the honor in a virtually guaranteed title?
That, perhaps even more than the ramifications for my hometown Celts, is what bothers me above all about Allen’s move.
There was a great deal of backlash when Dwyane Wade recruited LeBron and Chris Bosh to form a “super-team” in South Beach, with one problem being that this new Big 3 was so talented that it essentially eliminated much of the suspense and drama that sports are counted on to provide. Championships for Miami were coming, and there was little else that most other franchises could do about it.
One of the teams with a shot to at least delay the inevitable string of banners was the Celtics. Now, with Allen pulling a Johnny Damon, that chance is all but gone, too.
In the end, though, two things on my part are certain. First, despite all this, I’m really gonna miss Ray and his ever-present, never-aging mama.
I’m definitely not wishing him any luck.