*Ray Allen walks into Danny Ainge's office. A number of Danny's stat-geek assistants sit beside and behind him, nodding like the glassy-eyed lackeys that they are.*
Hey, Ray. Come on in and take a seat. We need to talk.
First, I just want to tell you that we truly appreciate everything you've done, on and off the floor, for this organization over the past five years. You've been a model teammate, citizen, and spokesperson for the team. Even though you are turning 37 next month, you are still a very valuable basketball player, and for a number of reasons you're a true asset to any team that has you on the roster. You're without a doubt one of the greatest jumpshooters this game has ever seen -- perhaps the best. Certainly, there's nobody who's ever had a more pure shooting form, or anybody who's worked harder to perfect their craft.
We know the last couple of seasons have been difficult for you. Even though you've kept yourself in amazing shape, you've dealt with a handful of lingering injuries. On top of that, you've had to deal with trade rumors every off-season and every time the trade deadline draws near. Despite that, you've kept a good attitude, continued to work hard, and only ever done what is asked of you -- even when it clearly bothered you a little bit.
But that brings us to the point. As much as you've done for this team, we think that it's probably time for us both to move on. We just want you to know, Ray, that it's not you. It's us.
This season, you willingly gave up your starting spot, which you had occupied since you arrived here in the summer of '07, to a very green -- and not just in the Celtic sense -- young second year player, Avery Bradley. The fact of the matter is, that move is what was best for the team, and we think you recognize that, even if it hurts your pride. The two top 5 man units by minutes played this season were the starting lineup with you at the two-guard spot (Rondo / Allen / Pierce / Bass / Garnett) and the same lineup with Bradley at the two (326 minutes and 219 minutes respectively). While the lineup with you in it was a solid +36 on the season, with a 1.06 Offense rating versus a 1.01 Defense rating, the lineup with Bradley was an impressive +82 on the season with a 1.13 Offense rating versus a .94 Defense rating. No other lineup came anywhere close to that +/- number. Moreover, the Bradley lineup was +28 in free throw attempts on the season, whereas the lineup with you in it was -12. The Bradley lineup also held opponents below 40% shooting, while your lineup was at a still-respectable 45%. On top of all this, while starting, Bradley scored nearly as many points (12.3) as you did as a starter this season (14.4), while shooting better overall from the field (50.4% versus 46.1%) and playing All-NBA level defense.
Indeed, Bradley has been heralded as perhaps the best, most tenacious on-ball defender in the NBA, and he's been a revelation running the break with Rondo and getting to the rim on backdoor cuts for easy looks, all while nailing corner threes at a high percentage. We know you try hard on defense, Ray, and we recognize the fact that you've turned yourself into a very decent defender these past five years despite the fact that you arrived here with the reputation of being disinterested at best on defense. Still, Bradley gives this team a different, quicker, more athletic look that just completely changes the dynamic of the game; it fundamentally alters the way our opponents have to deal with our team. Some opponents, like the Orlando Magic early in the season, were so stymied by Bradley's ball pressure that they could barely even get the ball past half-court.
We're not here to talk about Bradley, though. The effect you have on a game is still profound, Ray. Even when your shot is off, as it was for most of the playoffs, the opposing defense has to pay attention to you every second you're on the floor, because regardless of how many shots you've missed, you're always a threat to nail an open three off a screen or catch-and-shoot opportunity, making you a deadly late-game weapon. That floor spacing inevitably opens up the game for the rest of your teammates, giving them room to work and making much of what we do offensively easier, at least in the half court. That's the rub, though, Ray. Our team is transitioning into much more of an up-tempo offense, and you just don't really fit. While once upon a time you were dangerous off the dribble, and got to the rim easily against inferior defenders, these days the vast majority of your shot opportunities come off multiple pin-downs and double-screens. We've seen it many, many times -- Rondo standing at the top of the key while you race around the half-court, running around picks until you get open for a look beyond the arc. It's really a thing of beauty, Ray. But it slows us down.
A large source of the friction between you and the newly established leader of the team, Rondo, is that your games are increasingly at odds. Rondo thrives when the game gets sped up, when he can sky for a miss on the defensive end, race up the court, and take advantage of the chaotic state of the opposing defense to find openings and set up mismatches to get his teammates good looks. Locking him into a rigid half-court set running plays hamstrings his ability to work his magic. That made sense a few years ago when you and the rest of the Big 3 were still dominant offensively in the half-court, driving opposing coaches crazy trying to find a way to limit any one of you without allowing the others to go off, but it doesn't anymore. As Rondo goes, so go these Celtics, and right now Rondo wants to go, go, go faster.
The fact is, Bradley fits much better into that random, up-tempo style than you do, which is why he's a more natural fit in the starting lineup. Bradley still has a ton of developing to do, despite how good he is already, so he's going to need to get the majority of the minutes at the two next season and beyond (30+ minutes a game). That's only going to leave 20 minutes or so a game for you, especially if Jeff Green comes back to back up Paul. We understand that as a guy who has never averaged fewer than 30 minutes per game, and no less than 34 since your rookie season, that's probably not okay with you. Furthermore, if you stick around, the reality is that you're probably going to hear trade rumors circulating about you again come the trade deadline; that's just how it is. We know how troubling that is for you, but Danny is always working the phones, which is his job.
Even if you'd be okay with continuing in a sixth man type role, Ray, we think that perhaps our second unit, which is totally of devoid of players who can create their own shot, might need somebody who doesn't rely so much on elaborate sets to create opportunities for them, as you do. The second unit would be much more potent with a player like Jason Terry or Jamal Crawford, guys who create a lot of their looks off the dribble, or pulling up in transition, something you have been less and less able to do in recent years. We know that whether you're starting or coming off the bench, you can still light it up from beyond the arc for somebody, Ray. There are teams out there who could put your prodigious talents to great use. It just might not be here.
Ideally, we'd love if we could sign and trade you to your next team (preferably in the Western Conference) and get something, anything, in return -- sending you to the Grizzlies for O.J. Mayo would be perfect, or perhaps to the Blazers for Crawford and J.J. Hickson. However, if you end up deciding to take your talents to South Beach, we couldn't blame you for that. It wouldn't surprise us if, after seeing what a mostly-decrepit Mike Miller was able to do in the clinching game of the Finals, you looked at that situation and said, "Wow, I could do that every game."
In a perfect world, Ray, you would stay here for the next few years and retire a Celtic. Your number 20 would be raised to the rafters, alongside 34 and 5, perhaps as a two or three time champion. But this is not a perfect world, and just as you have to do what is best for yourself, we have to look out for the good of this team. We will always have the good times -- the game winning threes, the 51 point game, the drive for a layup past Vujacic in Game 4 of the '08 Finals, the 8 threes in Game 2 of the '10 Finals, the All-Time record, and on and on. We'll also miss your mother, Flo, always cheering in the stands at every game. We love you Ray. We look forward to seeing you again, down the road, when this doesn't hurt so much for either of us. Hopefully you won't be nailing a late-game three to send us home with a loss.
Just remember -- it's not you, it's us.
NOTE: This is a fictional account presenting editorial-style opinions laced with some loosely-researched facts.