Remembering Ray Allen

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Remembering Ray Allen

(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."

AINGE: "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.

Huh?

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.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Jaylen Brown may be the future of Celtics, but he's focused on now

Jaylen Brown may be the future of Celtics, but he's focused on now

BOSTON – This is not how this is supposed to work.

When the regular season ends for high draft picks, there’s usually a nice, warm island awaiting their arrival in late-April when the regular season ends.

But this was no typical rookie season for Boston’s Jaylen Brown.

And as we have seen, Brown isn’t your typical rookie.

Drafted with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft, the 6-foot-7 Brown found himself in the rotation on a Celtics team that advanced all the way to the Eastern Conference finals before having their season end at the hands of the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

The path towards individual and team success is littered with struggles and potholes of strife along with the pain of disappointment cluttering up things as well.

From within that rubble lies promise; the kind that has Celtics Nation justifiably excited about the future of Brown with the Celtics.

But Brown isn’t about the future, folks.

“I’m excited about the now,” he said. “I’m excited about this summer. I try not to look too far ahead. Everybody talks about the future and how much potential we have; I’m worried about the now. I want to be part of the now. That’s all I’m focused on.”

That kind of focus is among the many reasons that despite being a rookie, his teammates quickly sensed that the now-20-year-old had his sights set on not just talking about cracking the rotation but actually putting in the work that would leave head coach Brad Stevens no choice but to play him.

“He’s going to be really good,” said Boston’s Gerald Green. “If he keeps his same mentality; he’s humble. And continue to work on his game and continue to learn.

Green added, “he couldn’t be in a better place, than being here. With his talent and his work ethic, he’s going to be great.”

But like most rookies, Brown’s play was anything but a steady on-the-rise movement.

His first NBA start came on the road at Cleveland on Nov. 3.

Boston lost the game, but Brown won over many with his career-high 19 points while spending a good deal of the night guarding LeBron James.

In his next four games, Brown scored a total of just 17 points.

And in Boston’s first-round series with Chicago, Brown's role shrunk in the last four games – all Celtics wins. In those games, he played a total of just under 10 minutes.

So what did he do?

He got back in the gym, continued to work on his game and do a better job at making the most of the minutes he received.

More than anything else, Brown attributes his improved play as the season progressed to simply figuring out the NBA landscape as far as what he could do and what he needed to work on, to get better.

Which is why there are many who believe that Brown will be a much better player than the one we saw this season.

That said, he still had decent numbers – 6.6 points and 2.8 rebounds while shooting 45.4 percent from the field and 34.1 percent from 3-point range.

“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, coming into the NBA,” Brown said. “Throughout the year, I don’t think people expected me to contribute as much as I did. Now just getting to the Eastern  Conference finals and losing, it builds a hunger you know;  I have a bad taste in my mouth. Gotta put in work during the offseason and come back stronger.”

Like Brown, Al Horford came into the NBA as a high draft pick who wound up in the playoffs that rookie season.

Horford can totally relate to Brown’s comments about not knowing what he was getting into.

“The first year you’re really feeling everything out,” Horford said. “Jaylen has an understanding now of what the league is about. It’s a lot for a rookie to handle. Now he has a better idea (so) he can just focus on getting better, working on his game and I expect him to be much better his second year.”

Brown will have the knowledge gained from being part of a team that came within three wins of getting to the NBA Finals.

To come that close is tough to accept, but Brown sees it all as part of a bigger plan for him and his role with the Celtics moving forward.

“I can use it as fuel. I’ve been learning all year,” Brown said. “I’ve had ups, I’ve had downs, I’ve had opportunities, I’ve had mistakes. So I’ve been learning and growing and improving all year and I’m going to continue to grow and improve and prove people wrong, prove doubters wrong.”

And that process Brown speaks of has certainly been aided by being in a successful situation like Boston compared to some other lottery picks who saw lots of playing time but showed minimal growth playing lots of minutes.

“Being on a winning team and developing good habits, learning how to win, play the game the right way … learning that at a young age is really going to help me,” Brown said. “A lot of young guys, they don’t learn that early. They have to figure it out three, four, five years in. I’m happy I learned it now.”

And while the learning will continue on for Brown during this offseason, it won’t be nearly as tough now than it was when he came into the league.

“I know exactly what I’m preparing for,” Brown said. “I expect a really different result.”

Brown added, “I want to be ready for whatever is thrown at me; no excuses whatsoever.”

Now that’s how this is supposed to work!