Some Thoughts on Ray Allen's Departure: Why It Stings

This post was inspired by/in reaction to an article about people’s mixed reactions to Ray Allen's joining The Dark Side. I suppose I just want to share a few things myself.

If you’re curious or interested, here’s the link. I think it’s a solid article.:

1) The Big Three.

For the 2008 squad, there were no guarantees and only gambles. There was no gaudy light-show, no smoke-laden stage, and no promises of ring, after ring, after ring. There was a buzz in the Boston air, but it’d be more accurate to call the thing “anticipation” than “expectation”, maybe. Indeed, what better venue than BeanTown, USA -- not only a great sports city, but one of America’s first cities (and, by the way, an early sort of breeding ground for American jurisprudence and governance) -- to conduct this 'Great Experiment', conceived by The Architect, Mr. Danny Ainge? What a fabulous year for sports. We know how the rest goes.

After last season's run - and by all accounts it was a great run, if only because it surpassed everyone's expectations (yes, even the most faithful C's "fanatics", I suspect) - the organization had to make a decision: Option A, keep this team in-tact / Option B, rebuild. Maybe it was the timing, maybe it was the C's priorities, but in any event, I personally felt a real surge of energy and enthusiasm -- and a prolonged sigh of relief -- when KG resigned. I took this as a very clear sign that the planets were somehow aligned, that all the lights uniformly signaled the go-ahead “Green”, and that sweet vengeance was once again within sight, and maybe even within reach. This meant that my C's were going with Option A - the band was going to get back together, soon to wreak havoc on younger, stronger, more athletic rosters who would invariably underestimate us and succumb to our defense, team-play, veteran cool, and basketball savvy.

Pierce was locked in, Garnett just signed on, and Ray was poised and primed to complete the trifecta (as usual). And then Ray did something that really hurt – he simultaneously dissolved The Big Three, left The Celtics, joined a conference competitor, and joined The Heat. Each of these is a separate, distinct thing. Now, if Kevin Garnett had not stayed on with The Celtics, I would have had no issue with Ray Allen signing on with another team, and even "okay" with him signing with The Heat. With the dissolution of The Big Three, he would have had an unquestioned right to pursue another championship (many will always argue that he never lost such a right--well, to each their own). In such a case, a short-lived but brilliant chapter in Celtics lore would have ended. The problem is this: the pieces were there, and everything was in place for another shot at the title.

2) Why Does It Sting?

Ray’s opting out of a great, brilliant, fun-to-watch trio doesn’t quite make a whole lot of sense. We all believed these guys liked one another, had fun playing the game together, and above all, made for a deadly basketball squad. I just don’t think we got quite enough of them in action – 5 years seems too short.

As people have pointed out, Ray could have joined almost any team he wanted, but signed with The Miami Heat. I think a combination of feeling unwanted in Boston and highly coveted in Miami must have done the trick, not to mention a promise that went something like: “Not one… not two… not three…” I suppose gold lasts a while and legacies a while longer, but I can’t help but feel like he turned his back towards Kevin and Paul – instead of helping the C’s Big Three win again, Ray destroyed the Big Three, will try and knock us down a peg or two in the process, and is going to help his new mates get what we’ve been working hard for, year after year, without playing 5-on-8.

Speaking of wanted/unwanted, was there ever a point where you didn’t want Ray Allen on this team? Rhetorical question, but I hope my point is clear enough. Even when Ray was injured, I felt pretty satisfied about having him out there taking those shots, because he’s Ray Allen – you can think of few others you’d rather have to take an open 3 for you--or make an open one against you. So when these articles and tweets and fan-posts talk about “The Celtics”, “Boston”, or “the fans” not wanting Ray, I get frustrated. Why? I don’t like people putting words into my mouth or people speaking on my behalf. When did I ever say “if only we could trade Ray Allen for _______ .”?

That may have been Danny Ainge and/or The Celtics “Brass” and/or The Dark Side infiltrating our communications networks and pervading them with rumors, but tell me when, if ever, I ever lost faith or love for Walter Ray (before he opted out earlier this month). In no way could Ray have forgotten, so suddenly, how much Boston fans adored him. The Big Red, his shaved head, the routine, and certainly the class… everything about him: he was not unlike a character out of a novel, but you couldn’t think him up or get him down on paper if you tried. In short, Ray was a Celtic, and I was very convinced that he would stay one for life.

This brings me to another point: people need to stop talking about Ray’s days in Seattle and Milwaukee, because I don’t think he really found a place in either of those cities. In Boston, Ray finally found a home – now, he had brothers; now, he had a city behind him; now, he had a ring. It felt like a match made in Sports Heaven, and it seemed like these guys could, and should, have been here since Day 1. And then out of nowhere, he disappears. We gave, he took, then walked (What, Ray, no spooning?). It feels a little impersonal, but moreover, his walking away feels that much more like a betrayal.

Ray’s Issues with Boston. I just didn’t really believe Ray had an ego. Since when did becoming a starter, playing time, minutes, and the spotlight matter on a “Team-First” team? If Paul, Kevin, and Doc can all ‘get along’ with Rajon, why can’t Ray? The media seemed to make it a Rondo-Allen head-butt, but maybe the issue rested solely with Ray, and has for a while? Maybe Jason Terry is precisely who we need – or at least who we should want – because he doesn’t pay mind to any of these things (well, maybe the spotlight, but in a way that fuels the crowd. I can’t wait to see “the flaps”). Maybe, as a few others have mentioned, a group of 4 (or 5… or 6…) Divas down in Miami “works” (birds of a feather, right?). I apologize for speculating. We’ll just have to wait, particularly that last one.

There’s probably a lot more on my mind that I’d like to share, but I’ll sum it up with this: The Miami Heat. The discussions haven’t ended since LeBron’s “The Decision”, and they won’t for some time, I’d imagine. Anyway, something about this particular group coming together just wreaks and stinks – I smell collusion, I smell conspiracy, I smell something afoul. In any event, I would have thought Ray, of all people, would have been more interested in carving out playing time – and thereby a name – for himself on a team like The Clippers. Instead, he decided to take the easy way out, piggy-back off of Miami’s Three, who in turn is piggy-backing off of David Stern’s Control Center, so that he can put his feet up, play some golf, relax on the beach, and “earn” a few more rings, potentially. Ray Allen: I never pegged you as a cop-out, until this year. Honestly, you’re even making LeBron look good.

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