C's look for win vs. Heat despite sideshow atmosphere

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C's look for win vs. Heat despite sideshow atmosphere

BOSTON The long-awaited return of Ray Allen to the TD Garden to face his former team isn't going to have quite the sizzle that many anticipated when the schedules came out in the summer.

Allen's first game against his former team is just one of the many story lines in what would be a big game regardless of whether he joined forces with the C's biggest nemesis.

If not for a game-for-the-ages performance by LeBron James on this same TD Garden in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Heat would not be defending NBA champions and potentially, Allen might not be a member of the Heat.

More important to the Celtics than Allen's return, is their return to actually winning a game - something they have failed to do in their last six games which is something that never happened during Allen's five seasons with Boston.

Adding to the C's misery is they come into Sunday's game off what was one of the biggest collapses in franchise history, blowing a 27-point lead to the Atlanta Hawks who rallied for a 123-111 double overtime win Friday night.

As the Celtics (20-23) continue to try and fight their way through what has been a difficult and trying season, Allen's return and how the fans will treat him is the farthest thing from the mind of most of the C's right now.

"We're just trying to win games right now," C's guard Avery Bradley told CSNNE.com. "That's the only thing we're thinking about right now."

Maybe so, but that doesn't take away from the sideshow atmosphere that will surely engulf the TD Garden courtesy of Allen's decision to take his talents to South Beach rather than re-sign with Boston for significantly more money.

"I don't want it to distract these guys from everybody doing their job and being ready to play," Allen told reporters in Miami.

Allen's departure and the many elements that played a role in it, speaks volumes about how quickly things changed for him shortly after the C's won it all in 2008.

From that point on, Allen was the subject of trade rumors and was very close to being dealt to the Memphis Grizzlies for O.J. Mayo shortly before last year's trading deadline.

Always being on the trading block, coupled with an evolving role on the court that he did not feel comfortable with, made the decision to join forces with an arch-rival easier.

Allen lost his starting job to an up-and-coming Avery Bradley last season, begrudgingly becoming the team's sixth man.

And when the offseason came around, the Celtics didn't waste much time in signing then-free agent Jason Terry which was seen by many as a replacement for Allen who was an unrestricted free agent. The C's did offer Allen a multi-year deal for significantly more money than the Heat, but the Terry signing most likely meant fewer minutes for Allen if he did decide to re-sign with the Celtics.

Those were just some of the factors that eventually led to him signing with the Heat, a decision that has worked out quite well for both Allen and the Heat.

Miami, the reigning NBA champions, have the best record in the Eastern Conference with Allen playing a key part in that success.

He has appeared in 39 games (all coming off the bench) for Miami this season, averaging 11.4 points while playing 25.5 minutes per game.

There's no telling how Allen will handle his return emotionally, or what kind of reception he'll get from the Celtics fans who Allen knows all too well can be an unforgiving bunch when they feel betrayed - a sentiment many around New England felt when Allen joined the Miami Heat.

'It's an interesting concept because I've always gotten a warm welcome (in Boston)," Allen told reporters in Miami. "Even before I started playing there. I just want to win. Everything else will take care of itself."

As was the case at the start of the season, the Celtics have had little to say on Allen's departure.

Kevin Garnett said he didn't reach out to Allen this summer because he lost his phone number. And in their first meeting at the start of the season in Miami, Allen made his way towards the Celtics bench only for chilly non-greeting, greeting from Garnett who at the time looked away.

There's no telling what level of interaction there will be among the Celtics players and Allen Sunday afternoon.

But like most games involving these two, it will be worth watching for sure.

And Allen's return is just another storyline to pay attention to.

"There's a lot of stories, but you can throw records out the window when we play Boston," said Miami's Dwyane Wade. "It's significant because we have Ray Allen and it's his first time back, but we're going on the road and we want to play well and it's a tough place to play."