The Celtics had come within minutes of winning Banner 18 on the home floor of the most hated rival in the NBA. There were whispers all season long if this was it for the New Big Three Era. After all, it was year three of the three-year plan. Two of those big three members (Paul Piece and Ray Allen) were to become free agents. The Celtics lost a heartbreaking Game 7 and all sorts of questions arose if this was the end. Sound familiar? It should. The difference this year is that KG was the other free agent, although that didn’t last long. But just like in 2010, Ray is being recruited hard by Miami (as well as others) and just like in 2010 he’s taking his time to decide.
In 2010 it took Ray nearly two weeks to decide where he wanted to play. When he did, he offered this as his primary explanation as to why he chose to stay in Boston:
“LeBron was at center stage of the free-agent frenzy, and as he decided where to go, every other team was waiting — the ones with salary cap room — to decide who was second in line and third in line,” explained Allen. “I had been talking, obviously, going into the process with the Celtics and [president of basketball operations] Danny Ainge about what was right and what direction the team was going in. We made sure to take care of it early. I didn’t want to worry all summer about where I would be and my family.”
He further went on to say the following which are some of the same reasons why Celtics fans are hoping he decides to remain here again this time around:
“We are so entrenched with this community, the Joselin Center and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation,” said Allen, explaining how both he and his wife, Shannon, are on the Joselin’s board of trustees. “Walker has appointments every three months, that’s really the stalwart of our family, to be sure he has the treatment he needs. If we had to go elsewhere, I’m sure there were good hospitals in other major cities. But to look for a new home, new nurses and doctors — that is trying on everybody.”
“July 1st hit and it’s kind of a free-for-all,” said Allen. “You’re talking to so many teams, hearing what they think and how they are going to propose moving into the future with certain players. When you’re talking to teams, you’re wrapping your mind around what it might be like to be on that team, to be in a certain city, what it’s like when you travel there. Yeah, there were times when I didn’t think I was coming back.”
There’s no question that these same thoughts are running through Ray’s mind right now. However, there have been two eventful seasons in between free agency periods for Ray. Some have been great, like becoming the all-time NBA 3-point shooter, but it’s the negative aspects that seem to be causing so much debate and discussion. This season, Ray started out as one of the only Celtics ready for the lockout shortened season and was a huge reason why this team was even able to stay above water. He shot a career best from the 3-point line and then injured his ankle.
Coupled with a severe concussion suffered by Mickeal Pietrus, Avery Bradley stepped into Ray’s starting two-guard slot and seized his opportunity. Ray was never the same and couldn’t return until the playoffs, midway through the Atlanta series. He was a solid contributor off the bench and still made a lot of key shots as well as being surprisingly aggressive on the boards, but he wasn’t able to move like, well, Ray. He could still make clutch threes:
He also showed that he still has some hops as late as the Miami series:
As well as playing solid enough defense to reject lay-ups of the younger, faster guards:
In the off-season he’s already had ankle surgery to remove those stabbing bone spurs and feels like he has “a lot of basketball left in those legs.” Now the only thing to decide is where to play out that basketball.
Remember, last December he (supposedly) criticized David West for choosing the Indiana Pacers over the Celtics. Here’s what he thought about that:
So why does Allen think West had a change of heart?
“Once it got down to the end, I think his ego kicked back in,” Allen said. “He wanted the dollars. I guess it comes down to ‘What is a championship worth to you?’
“Think of all the guys who have made $20 million and could be considered one of the best ever, but they get chided because they never won. We [the Big Three] all had to do less when we won. We’re still taking less to make it work. But it’s worth it. No one can ever say to KG, Paul or me, ‘You guys never got your ring.'”
He later backed off those statements a bit, telling the Boston Globe:
“The conversation I had with the reporter, we were talking about contractually, when guys were signing during free agency. I went through the same process: Do you sign for more money or less money? Sometimes you go after the money, sometimes you put your self in a position to make less money on a particular team.
“So those comments were made to look like I was driving him toward – by no means do I have any malice to him and his family. His situation, whatever he was going through, was best for him. He made the decision he saw fit for himself.’’
A few weeks later when the Pacers made a visit to Boston, David West had this as a reply to Ray:
West made a pointed statement about the perception of the Celtics. He noted a reason he did not want to sign a long-term deal here was that the window is closing quickly, perhaps faster than he wanted.
“In Boston, everybody is kinda realistic about the window that the Celtics have,” he said. “Me looking at where I’m at. I think my window is a little bit wider. This young team here (the Pacers), the next few seasons have the piece to be able to compete.”
In a funny sense of irony, Ray might be feeling the same way West felt at that time. Maybe he feels like the C’s window is rapidly closing despite the return of KG, most likely Jeff Green, possibly Brandon Bass as well as an influx of promising rookies. That would explain why he would choose Miami for not only less money, but to also play on the bench behind Dwyane Wade. Or maybe he is still unhappy with the idea of losing his starting role to Bradley, and will prefer the LA Clippers who can offer him a starter’s role for still, less money. But Ray made it clear several times that it’s not about the money (completely). Maybe the alleged strained relationship with Rajon Rondo is a bigger issue than we all think. But despite what I’ve read and heard several people say, it did not affect their team work on the court. The stuff off the floor happens all the time on every team. Also, by all accounts from Doc, he said this was the best group he’s ever coached in that regard, which is a huge reason why he’s trying to “bring the band back together.”
In the end, it’s not surprising that Ray is taking his time and listening to other teams. He did it in 2010 and is doing it again. He’ll have more money from Boston than anyone and will still very likely be on the floor in every close game as well as log a ton of minutes provided he’s healthy. It also may just be a case of: “it’s time.” Either way, all the quotes above should provide a solid indication as to what Ray is thinking right now. Stay tuned because his decision directly impacts which way the Celtics will approach the way they fill out their roster. If the summer of 2010 is any indication, we should all expect a decision within days of when the moratorium ends. Stay tuned.