Ray Allen's press conference yesterday made me sad. Not sad because he'll be missed by the Celtics (although he certainly will be, both as a player and a person) but because Ray himself seems to already miss the Celtics. All his comments yesterday made that loud and clear. As did his demeanor, which seemed somber and not at all enthusiastic about signing a new contract.
It's becoming painfully obvious that Ray made his decision to go to the Heat - for significantly less money - based primarily on feelings of bitterness and spite toward the Celtics. Ray felt spurned. Spurned because Ainge called KG first in free agency and offered a three year deal (rather than the two Ainge offered to Ray). Spurned because the Celtics immediately contacted Jason Terry. Spurned because of attempts to trade Ray last year and by the team's elevation of Avery Bradley into the starting lineup. Justified or not, these things made Ray feel slighted.
But, as most of us know, decisions made on emotion (particularly negative emotion) are rarely wise or satisfying ones in the long run. Maybe signing with the Heat would have made sense for more money, but Ray actually lost money in the deal. Maybe it would have made sense if the Celtics were "rebuilding," but they aren't. Maybe it would have made sense to be closer to family, but Ray lives in Connecticut. No, this decision looks to have been made solely to "get back" at the Celtics, pure and simple. There are other teams Ray could have gone to, and even started for, for similar dollars to what the Celtics were offering. Even a sign-and-trade, to help the Celtics replace him would have been beneficial to both sides. An outright signing with the Heat, however, of all teams, was done for a particular and pointed reason.
Ray might be successful in Miami. He might even win another championship. But I have the sneaking suspicion that, deep down, Ray will regret this decision on a personal level (and may already). Now his relationship with Doc, Pierce, and KG will never be the same. Memories of the "Big 3" era will never be the same. And, as much as he insists he will "always be a Celtic," intentionally leaving to go the team's current biggest rival, for less money, will impact how he is remembered by the team and its fans, regardless of how Ray tries to spin it. Especially since he calls New England his home. His legacy will be very different now and, if yesterday's press conference is any indication, he's beginning to see that.
I'm sorry Ray, but now you won't "always be a Celtic." Sure, you'll have your place in team lore and your run will be remembered with the respect it's due. But next season you'll be trying to drain 3's to beat the Celtics for the most deplorably mercenary team in the league. And you'll be doing so willingly, of your own choice. We won't be rooting for you then. You won't be a Celtic then.