WALTHAM -- There was one unavoidable question at Boston Celtics Media Day: What did the players think about Ray Allen's decision to sign with the Miami Heat?
Paul Pierce, for one, didn't expect it.
"I was very surprised at Ray's decision," he said on Friday afternoon. "I thought we would finish our careers together, me, Kevin Garnett and Ray. I was very surprised at him going to Miami but Ray, he's a grown up. He has to make a decision of what he feels like is best for his family, for himself."
Pierce shared the court with Allen for five seasons after the Celtics acquired Allen in the summer of 2007. Together, "The Big Three" won a championship in 2008. They will face off on Opening Night when the Celtics take on the Heat in South Beach.
"I wish he could have went to the Los Angeles Clippers if he was going anywhere, but he went to our Eastern Conference rivals," said Pierce. "But as you all know, Ray likes to golf, maybe that factored into his reasoning, he didn't like the golfing in Boston in the winter. Who knows."
Most NBA teams would benefit from adding Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler. But few NBA have the assets to acquire him. The most legitimate suitor in the NBA resides in Boston.
"The potential of a Boston-Chicago deal for Jimmy Butler -- I think it will loom over the entire week," Yahoo! NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski said Saturday. "These teams have engaged on the potential of this trade. They have not gotten far down the road on it. There still needs to be alignment within the Bulls organization -- from ownership to management -- that they want to make the decision to enter a full rebuild.
He added: "But the poential of this deal really illustrates the State Farm right combo, because these are two teams that have exactly what the other wants. Boston has been hoarding assets for years for a couple of season, trying to get in the position to get a star player."
Wojnarowski suggested the first building block for the Butler trade would start with either the 2017 or 2018 Brooklyn Nets' first-round pick, which the Celtics acquired in 2013 in the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trade.
"And Jimmy Butler in Boston, paired with Isaiah Thomas and this Celtics team -- it would put this Celtics team in a position to seriously challenge Cleveland [Cavaliers] in the east, not only in the short term, but also in the long term."
Butler's contract extends to 2020, and then Wojnarowski explained Boston could then sign the guard to another long-term deal. In the meantime, he could help Boston surpass a vulnerable-looking Cavaliers team.
The Boston Celtics are one of the NBA's top teams -- and not just in terms of talent. Forbes has ranked the Celtics as the fifth-most valuable NBA franchise at $2.2 billion.
The Celtics "sport" valuation is one of the highest in the NBA at $674 million. Their "market" valuation comes in as $883 million, their "arena" valuation falls at $341 million and their "brand" valuation stands at $302 million.
Boston is a constant in a continually emerging NBA. Forbes reports the NBA is worth $1.36 billion, which 3.5 times its value five years ago. The league is also on a seven-year collective bargaining agreement that will provide stability in the league for that duration. The NBA also signed a $24 billion deal with ESPN and TNT that began at the start of the 2016-17 season.
The Celtics will continue to play an important part in the growth of the league.