I want to try to make sense of Celtics fans’ reaction to Ray Allen choosing to sign with the Miami Heat. There’s a lot of anger, and that anger has been dismissed by some as sour grapes. I think there’s a lot more to it than that.
Let’s start with Ray’s grievances. I think they’re all valid, to one extent or another. Danny Ainge certainly did help bring this on:
After this caused some furor, he kind of doubled down:
Ainge really seems to not understand loyalty here. Emphasis on “seems to”. After this, he did try to walk it back. And some of his other actions, like the Jeff Green situation, do suggest he believes in some kind of loyalty. Also, he’s right, it is “obvious” he would trade anyone in the right situation. If somehow the opportunity arises to get Kevin Durant, yeah, you’d trade anyone. But there’s no reason to state it the way he did. Maybe he was trying to motivate the team. I don’t know.
But apparently he really did mean it, to some extent, since he went ahead and traded Ray Allen two months later:
OK, the trade didn’t happen. But the fact is, Ainge agreed to trade Ray Allen. And it wasn’t a situation where Ainge talks to him, tells him he thinks things aren’t working out, find out where Ray would like to go, etc. And it wasn’t exactly Durant coming back. It was a pretty ordinary trade, treating Ray like a pretty ordinary player.
I thought Ray deserved better. At the same time, he is an NBA player, and that is part of the job. And, he was not actually traded, of course.
Then there’s the idea that he didn’t get the ball when he was open. What do I know, but I always wanted the offense to feature Ray more prominently. I’m sure there were times when Ray was open and Rondo didn’t get him the ball. That happens.
Of course, there was a good plan to get Ray more shots: run him more with the second unit. I always thought it would be a great fit, and Doc has said he’s thought so too. But apparently Ray wouldn’t go for it until he absolutely had to. So much for “anything to help the team win”.
Ray also complained that he was always the one to sacrifice. I’m not sure what that means. But I’m sure it’s true that he wasn’t the most highly regarded player on the team. Pierce and Rondo have both played their entire careers with the Cs. KG is a former MVP and was Defensive Player of the Year when the Celtics won the title. Last year, Ray was clearly no better than their 4th best player. If that hurts his feelings, I’m sorry, but that’s reality.
If he means, why should he be the one to come off the bench, well, see the previous paragraph. But also see this list of Sixth Man of the Year Winners. In the past eight years, seven of the winners have been shooting guards, and the eighth, Lamar Odom, handled the ball a lot and shot a lot of threes. That’s what you need for a sixth man. Ray has had some trouble getting his own shot as he’s aged, but he’s still the best to fill that role. And even if Pierce would be better in that role, Pierce is the captain.
Ray has also been asked to take less money than the other three.
- being dangled in trades
- not getting the ball when he’s open
- not being a focal point of the offense
- not being a starter
- not being the teams most highly regarded player / captain
- less money
These are the reasons we’ve heard, and they’re fair complaints.
Here’s the problem. This summer, the Celtics offered him a better deal on every single one of the above grievances than the Heat did.
It was widely reported the Celtics were offering a no-trade clause. The Heat could not do that. The Heat have an offense centered around getting out in transition as often as possible, and having LeBron dominate the ball at the top of the key or in the low post in the half court. In Dwyane Wade, the Heat have a starter at Allen’s position who is better than him in every conceivable way besides shooting wide-open jumpers, and who is the team captain. The Heat have three guys who are all still in the primes of their careers, who are all making well into 8 figures and demand the ball. And yeah, sorry but they’re all better than he is, at this point.
And, to top it all off, the Heat will pay him half what the Celtics would have.
And then, to top it off further, he went to our “hated rival”. I actually don’t care about this part quite as much as some other Celtics fans do… but it matters. It especially matters since, given the above, it seems like picking the Heat may have been an intentional choice to stick it to the Celtics.
But, maybe Ray just wants to win. Right? That’s what this ESPN poll suggests. It asks:
What do you think was Ray Allen’s primary reason for choosing the Heat over the Celtics?
- Deteriorating relationship with Rondo and feeling of unrequited loyalty toward the Celtics
- It’s simple: He thought Miami gave him a better chance to win
Obviously, Miami gives him “a better chance” to win. Miami gives anyone a better chance to win. Miami just won!!! Miami got Juwan Howard a ring. They got Eddy Curry a ring. They even got Eddy Curry a ring. Yes, that deserves to be said twice.
And, of course, Wade is coming back. LeBron is coming back, but much more confident. Bosh is coming back, but healthier. Battier is coming back, and unless Pat Riley doesn’t want them to, Chalmers and Haslem and Cole and Anthony are all coming back.
The only guys who played any minutes in the Finals who might not come back are Miller and Jones. But that’s far from decided. It certainly sounds like Miller wants to come back, if his body cooperates.
So, Ray Allen is signing on to… umm… replace James Jones? And steal some of the minutes Spoelstra gave, in an act of desperation, to Norris Cole? That’s how he’s going to get the respect the Celtics didn’t show him???
If Ray had gone to a team — say, the Clippers — where it seemed he’d be the starting (and finishing) 2 guard, where his veteran, championship experience would be highly valued, and where he could get the other guys over the hump — preferably for at least the full midlevel exception — I think anyone could see that. Anyone could see why he’d want that opportunity, and that challenge.
But he can’t get Miami over the hump. There is no hump. They just won the title, without him. How are they going to do any better than that? They don’t need his leadership, they have eight guys who won an NBA championship more recently than he did. And, again, they don’t even have a job for him — except, possibly, the job he was outraged and wounded and offended when the Celtics nicely asked him to perform it.
And then, one more thing. A rumor, perhaps, but seems to come from reliable sources. Ray apparently would have signed with the Celtics if they offered an even bigger contract. Doesn’t this mean all this “pride” stuff goes out the window? If his relationship with the Celtics was irreparably damaged, then, fine. He should have made that clear at the beginning of free agency, and we could have moved on, and then he could have picked among his remaining suitors.
If it wasn’t irreparably damaged, but he wanted to be shown the love, on the bottom line, well, fine. The Celtics offered that. Way more money, and a no-trade clause. If he was willing to consider coming back to the Celtics, that should have gotten it done.
But, no. He was willing to come back to the Celtics, but their offer wasn’t good enough. A no-trade clause, a better role, an offense more suited to his abilities, the chance to be a crucial part of a very good team, with which he’d played for five years, and to have it end with #20 being raised to the rafters in the most storied arena in the NBA — plus more money — wasn’t enough to get it done. But, for another $15 million, he would have been in.
So, I think it’s easy to understand why the feeling of the fans is, “Good riddance”. We feel that way even though, up until two days ago, we really wanted him back. That’s not hypocrisy, and it’s not sour grapes. It’s a realization that the guy we thought we wanted on our team doesn’t exist.