The Celtics only lose by excluding Ray Allen from their franchise’s history.
When we think of Ray, the all-time leader in three-pointers, the scorer who could drill shots at every level. The original long-range master before Steph Curry stepped back further. The one who ushered Kevin Garnett to Boston, who helped establish a culture that ended a 22-year Celtics championship drought that’d certainly still be continuing today. Who pulled Boston within one game of another with a historic 2010 Finals shooting performance. There should be no doubt about which franchise this hall-of-famer will forever be associated with.
Yet Allen does not feel welcome in Boston nor does he expect to be in attendance when the Celtics retire Kevin Garnett’s jersey next season. He’s still hurt. That the fanbase he hung a banner for sent such vitriol his way. That media members funneled word of him being a hindrance in the locker room. The reunion Doc Rivers envisioned while talking to Jeff Goodman and Bob Ryan recently will not happen, Allen said, unless he and Kevin Garnett have a heart-to-heart.
Rivers took responsibility for Allen not being at Paul Pierce’s retirement ceremony, saying he tried to get him to come. Allen said he never received an invite, thus why he was photographed golfing on that day.
“As you know when I left, I left as a free agent,” Allen told Cedric Maxwell on his podcast. “I left because there were so many unresolved issues that the team wasn’t considering or willing to change … it’s 2020, so you’re talking about nine years now. I’ve gotten so much hate, death threats, vitriol from Boston fans. Obviously these guys have kind of removed me from the big three, said so many negative things about me … we’re brothers, we went through a lot, but that doesn’t change anything we’ve done. It hurt me over the course of this time just to hear some of the things that have been said.”
In 2017, Garnett, Paul Pierce, Glen Davis, Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins hosted a reunion of their 2008 title team without the man who scored 20.3 PPG in the Finals. Garnett said Allen moved on, “the situation with Ray is very sensitive,” and that he wanted to limit the gathering to who they considered loyal. Pierce wished Allen talked to the group before leaving.
“I think it’s on Ray to break the ice,” Perkins said then. Rondo remained silent.
One of those issues, which Allen later wrote about in his book, was Allen’s sense that Rondo boxed him out of the offense. Doc moved Allen to the bench in favor of Avery Bradley during the 2011-12 season, a move Allen felt was Rivers’ solution to what he said Doc admitted was a known problem among the coaches. Allen compared the situation to James Posey’s departure.
Posey wanted another year on his contract that the Celtics were unwilling to give. His former teammates found out he signed with New Orleans at the ESPYs without the same disdain he received.
“My character has been assassinated often,” Allen said. “It’s not just this situation … my intentions were always to win basketball games, and oftentimes I got the blame … because I could take it.”
These days players are diving into their own career reels as often as fans are pulling up YouTube highlights and tuning into classic replays. With each Allen bucket replayed, it becomes retrospectively clear why we get to celebrate the 2008 banner, yet we will not give consideration to No. 20 joining it over the parquet. That may be the only way to truly heal this rift — and that will fall on the Celtics organization.
No. 34 and No. 5 joining Larry Bird and Bill Russell took Allen’s guidance, and willingness to not wear 34 himself, or average more than 20 points per game as he did with Seattle. Allen remembered when Pierce would clown his meticulous habits, warm-ups and preparation that eventually became part of Celtics lore.
Garnett and Allen set a standard for a locker room that never had such illumines figures alongside Pierce. As years passed so much of Allen’s story became intertwined with the Celtics. His mother in the stands was a staple on broadcasts, as were the stories of his work ethic and his rivalry with Kobe Bryant from the Supersonics became his NBA Finals rivalry with Kobe as part of the larger Celtics-Lakers lore.
“I never played the game for a pat on the back,” Allen said of playing in Pierce and Garnett’s shadow. “When we got thrusted in situations when it was time to win games, I knew that the ball had to come around my way.”
Then it all got lost. A shot with the Miami Heat became the most memorable shot of his career one season after his departure. He hasn’t been celebrated at TD Garden since Boston sent the Celtics to Miami with the overwhelming cheers into their fate in Game 7. Perhaps it was for the best, as their downturn next season sent the message to the front office to make the difficult move that eventually landed Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
We never know how much time is left to celebrate what the Celtics did in 2008 in full. Kobe’s death should have been the strongest reminder of that. The clock is not unlimited to heal the wounds that are preventing that reunion.
“We’re supposed to be celebrating,” Allen said.