(Friday night at 9:30 pm. The phone rings in Danny Ainges office.)
RAY ALLEN: "Hey, Danny. Its Ray.
AINGE: "Ray! Nice to hear from you! Whats up?
ALLEN: Well, listen. Im calling because I want you to be the first to know that Ive made a decision . . . and Im going to Miami.
AINGE: Oh . . . Wow. OK, may I ask why?
ALLEN: " . . . For spite."
ALLEN: "That's right. I don't care for how Ive been treated, so Im leaving.
AINGE: "Um, I don't think you can leave for spite."
ALLEN: "What do you mean?"
AINGE: "Well, if there was some problem with our offer, we could maybe allow it, but I'm afraid spite doesn't fit any of our conditions for switching teams."
ALLEN: "So fine. Then . . . I wanted a third year. Thats why Im leaving."
AINGE: "Well, you already said spite so . . ."
ALLEN: "But I changed my mind!"
AINGE: "No, you said spite. Too late."
Ahh, if it were only that easy. But sadly, this isnt Seinfeld. This is the Real World. And this is the true story of what happens when people stop being polite. When things get personal. When trade talks are more than just "part of the business." When superstars are no longer superstars, but expect to be treated like superstars.
This is a world where nothing is forever. Where people change. Where friends become enemies. Where . . .
Ray Allen plays for the Miami Heat.
And really, its not just that he plays for the Heat, because Allen fleeing for Miami isnt an enormous surprise. Hed been on the Riley Radar since 2010, and in the two years since, Ive lost track of how many times Ive heard or said the words: You know, Ray Allen would be a great fit in Miami. As a result, the way we feel this morning and have felt for most of the weekend isnt so much a result of Allen ditching the Celtics, but more how he did it: Defiant. Angry. Spiteful. Vengeful. Leaving behind a trail of unresolved issues that stink worse than a pair of Big Babys underwear.
Of course, there's the good stuff. There will always be the good stuff. Despite all the bad blood that's boiled up over the last few days, there's no question that Ray Allen's legacy in Boston will be overwhelmingly positive. So little question, that I want to punch myself for even mentioning it. Even harder now that I'm going to re-iterate the point one more time:
Nothing will ever take away from what Ray Allen did for the Celtics.
Anyone who says differently wasn't around for 2007's 18-game losing streak and the nearly 15 non-descript seasons that came before it. Without Ray Allen, there would be no Big 3. No KG. Dick's Sporting Goods would have an entire warehouse committed to unpurchased Yi Jianlian Celtics jerseys. We're forever indebted to Ray for his time here.
He gave Boston five great years. And in the process, he sacrificed more than anyone in that locker room. On the court, he sacrificed numbers. (In their first season together, Kevin Garnett gave up 3.7 shots a game from the previous year. Paul Pierce gave up 4.4. Allen gave up 7.5.) Off the court, he sacrificed the spotlight. After every game those first few years, Pierce and Garnett were ushered into a separate press conference, where they were welcomed by a comfortable seat, a cold Gatorade, a fresh box score, a warm towel in case the room was too cold. Meanwhile, Allen was crammed like a sardine into the sweaty locker room, next to likes of Gabe Pruitt, Nate Robinson, JR Giddens and Billy Walker.
He sucked it up big time, and we all reaped the benefits.
He also couldn't have been more fun to watch.
Take a second and imagine Rondo dribbling the ball at the top of the key. Now, all of a sudden, out of the corner of your eye, you catch Ray Allen start to make his move.
He jabs hard left, and then spins right. Or maybe just bounces lightly on his toes, waiting for the perfect moment, before pulling a swim move on the defender and b-lining it for the block. Once he gets there, he runs off a screen or a double screen or a triple screen, but it barely matters. At this point, you already know what's coming.
Ray comes off the pick and, just for good measure, throws in one more misdirection. He takes a hard step to the elbow hard enough for his defender to bite and then floats into the corner for a wide open look. He catches the ball, locks his radar, and that's that. Cue Eddie Palladino: "Ray Allen for Threeee!" As Allen throws out a quick fist pump or shoots off a subtle finger pistol.
We'll never forget the joy of watching him play for Celtics. We'll never forget the joy of the 17th Championship. But there's no doubt that what happened over the last few days will negatively effect how we remember Ray Allen.
Not for what he did for this city, but for who he was, and who he is.
Reflecting on Allens time in Boston, I remembered a conversation I had with a friend close to the team back in 2010. This was during the playoffs after Game 3 of the Conference Finals against Orlando and there were rumors of a budding rift between Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce. My question was simple: Whats going on with those guys?
It was nothing.
This was at a time when just about everyone had some sort of budding rift with Rondo, and whatever was up between he and Pierce apparently wasnt cause for concern.
But Rays a different story.
This blew my mind. Ray Allen? Theres someone who doesn't like Ray Allen? How is that possible? Everyone likes Ray Allen!
My friend continued: Thats the thing: Ray wants everyone to like him. Hes a politician. You take a guy like Rondo, Paul or KG, and if they dont like you, youll know they dont like you. Theyre going to tell you they dont like you. But with Ray, you ever know how he really feels. You never know the truth. Hes always playing every angle and that can rub people the wrong way.
Today, this makes too much sense.
Today, and every day for the next three years, we'll be reminded that through all the awesomeness and excitement of the last five seasons, we never knew the truth of what was going on with Ray Allen. That behind all the sacrifice, there were layers of anger and resentment. That where we thought we were watching and rooting for the consummate teammate, he was a guy who was genuinely upset about what others were getting paid and how many minutes he played even it wasn't in the best interests of the team.
I'm not saying this makes him a bad person. In fact, for Allen to actually feel so bitter and spiteful about how the Celtics had treated him, yet still show up every day, play so hard and care so much, makes him a better person than most of us. Can you imagine how hard that must have been? But through it all, Ray was a true pro. We can never take that away from him. Despite all the anger, he always said the right thing.
It's just too bad that he didn't always mean it.