BOSTON - There's been so many returns lately that Ray Allen coming back to Boston for the umpteenth time has lost a bit of its luster. So at this point, it's time to look forward. And up to the rafters.
"Interestingly enough I have not had my jersey retired anywhere that I have ever played," Allen said. "So it's not something that I'm worried about."
His legacy seemed tarnished, and for all intents and purposes, still is with the Bleed Green Nation that drowns out a lot of the sensibility surrounding this team. But walking through the newly painted corridors of the TD Garden, featuring a breathtaking mural that includes Allen and the Celtics' historic '08 title run, the happy memories of glory set back in for Ray.
"Now that I think about it, I just signed a picture for [Brian] Doo, the [Celtics] strength coach, and it's this picture of me taking a shot. We were playing against the Lakers and it was just a random shot. And when you see it, I think about all the big games we played in this building. Non-playoff games, playoff games. Those are the things that will always stick out in your mind and you always remember. Regardless of what happens in the rafters, I look up and see a banner and that's what makes it so special."
So does Allen want number 20 hanging in the rafters next to 34 and 5?
"Of course. It would be probably one of the biggest, single most honors in my career because the impact that I've had playing the game - I still remember what it was like and how it was when I first came into the league. I had no clue what direction I was heading in and what I was supposed to do for this game and the impact I would leave. So to be able to have an impact on a generation of kids, have it on an organization and a city, it's truly an honor for people to recognize that. It can't get any better than that."
Allen's departure was
an absolute disaster less than ceremonious and now he faces another opportunity to choose his own path with his contract expiring at the end of the season. But Allen continues to defend how he left Boston, which ended up working out pretty well for him.
"I had been putting myself in a pool of free agency and deciding where from there do I go? Obviously you try to put yourself in the best situation possible."
He's played nearly two decades and is approaching 40, but Allen hasn't considered whether he will call it quits after the season.
"It's hard to do it when you're kind of in the middle of everything," Allen said. "It's easier when the dust settles and you're in the summer. Now, contractually, I have an opportunity to decide going forward, what the situation with the team is, what the NBA landscape looks like and how my body feels.
"I feel good. My body, I feel like it looks good. I don't necessarily feel like that's the emphasis behind me continuing to paly if that's the case Just because you can do it, doesn't mean you have to."
Allen's physical capability and reliability is even more impressive considering his peers from the '96 draft class are struggling to stay on the court. Allen, who has battled minor injuries throughout his mid-to-late-thirties, continues to be a key player on a consistent basis.
"All the years, we start falling," Allen said. "You look around and you see guys - if you had to predict a class of guys that would hang around, it takes more than just being good for two or three years. You have to have sustainability and take care of yourself for a long period of time.
"Being able to be good now not only on the floor but off the floor in the locker rooms, that's a valuable lesson for young players today coming into the NBA. To learn how to take care of your body, learn how to be a good teammate and learn how to be professional all-around. You do that and you stay around for a long time and ultimately - like every kid wants to do is make a lot of money - you put yourself in a good situation."
Allen is lucky enough to close out his career in a good situation and on his own terms. Few players get to carry that with them into retirement.
LeBron James & Erik Spoelstra talked before the game about the stretch run of the season: