I have had five full days to get a grip on how to feel about Ray Allen ditching the Celtics to team up with LeBron and the rest of the Miami Heat. I have read nearly every article I could find on the topic. I am trying to be rational. I am trying to be open-minded.
I get it. Allen was a privilege to watch. Allen sacrificed the most of the Big Three to make it work for five years in Boston. Danny Ainge tried to trade Allen on more than one occasion.
And most of all, Allen helped Boston win championship number 17, something Celtics fans waited 22 years to see happen.
You know what, I do not care. Maybe there is no loyalty in sports between players and teams, and teams and players. But, do not say there is no loyalty in sports.
Fans are loyal to their teams. The Celtics are my team and Ray walked away, and he did so when he was still wanted.
He turned his back on the Celtics to take less money to go to the number one obstacle between Boston and another championship, to go to the Heat, who have morphed into the Yankees of the NBA, and to go to the team that eliminated Boston the last two years.
Has this ever happened before, where a key player on a championship contending team left for that team's primary competition, and did so for less money? I am sure it has, but I cannot think of an example.
At his introductory press conference in Miami, Allen appeared with Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley, who has been a Celtics enemy for as long as I have followed basketball. Riley’s role certainly pours additional chunks of salt in this wound. Sitting next to Riley, Allen tried to say all the right things, but with every word, I found myself getting angrier and angrier.
Allen said he shares “many of the same ideals” with Spoelstra. Really Ray? You are choosing Spoelstra over the relationship you have with Doc Rivers?
He said he will always remember the Boston fans chanting, “Let’s Go Celtics” in the closing seconds of Game Six in the Eastern Conference Finals. That supposedly meant a lot to Allen. I don’t want to disappoint you Ray, but I know the Boston Celtics' fans. Ray, Heat fans are not Celtics fans.
He also said he was sad to be leaving Boston and the Celtics. An old joke is a man walks into a doctor’s office and says, “Doc, it hurts when I do this,” and the doctor responds, “Then don’t do that.” Ray, if it makes you so sad, then don’t leave.
Too late for that, I know.
Yesterday, a friend sent me a text message asking “On a scale of one to ten, with ten being Johnny Damon leaving for the Yankees and one being Gabe Pruitt signing with the Knicks, how mad are you with Ray Allen?”
I thought about it for a while and had to respond that I am angrier with Allen then I was with Damon.
When word broke that Damon agreed with the Yankees, it came as a shock. But, it was also December of 2005. Although the Yankees were still the Hated Yankees to all Boston fans, the Red Sox had the upper hand at that particular moment, only one season removed from the comeback against New York on the way to winning the World Series.
Also, Damon did not leave for New York because his personality clashed with a teammate. All the articles about the Ray Allen-Rajon Rondo friction make the same points. Though there was not one incident or any on-court problems, the two just never clicked and did not like each other.
I want to yell at Ray to get over it. So, you don’t like a co-worker? It happens. Not to mention all those jumpers you have shot over the last five years with Boston, how many of them were off of catches from Rondo passes?
On a short side note, Rondo has been known in certain situations to be extra motivated. Maybe that possibly he sometimes lacked motivation bothered the ever-prepared Allen. I do not know. What I do know, though, is that Rondo averaged 20 points, 12 assists, and seven boards against the Heat this season. I imagine he won’t be any less motivated next year against Allen and the Heat.
But back to the Allen-Damon comparison. The main reason why I am angrier at Ray than I ever was with Damon comes down to one word: choice.
Damon may have left Boston, and may have chosen the Yankees, and at the time, I may have thought to myself, “any other team Johnny.” However, the reality is that Damon left Boston for New York not because he did not want to be a Red Sox anymore, but because of the money. The money made Damon’s decision a no-brainer.
Boston put a four-year, $40 million dollar offer on the table. New York blew that out of the water, with a four-year, $52 million contract. The Red Sox were never going to match that or even come close. Of course Damon was going to New York. He really had no other choice.
Ray, though, had a choice. He simply did not want to be here anymore. He chose to leave, he chose less money.
In the end, regardless of Allen’s reasons, right or wrong, valid or not, he did not want to be a Celtic any longer. Had the Red Sox exceeded the Yankees offer to Damon, don’t you think Damon would have been back in Boston in 2006?
Being a sports fan requires loyalty. Such loyalty at times requires being rational to be pushed aside. Deep down in places I don't talk about at parties, I know Derek Jeter is pretty good, but it will never stop me from chanting "Jeter Sucks." I know Ray Allen's decision on many levels might have been the correct one. It does not mean I will ever support it or support him for having made it.
Michael Corleone taught us that you never take sides against your family. The Celtics to their fans – the Celtics to me – are family. Ray Allen has taken Miami’s side. He may have said, “Forever, I’ll always be a Celtic,” but that was a lie. For sports fan, loyalty allows for just two sides – your team’s side and every other team’s side.
Again paraphrasing Michael Corleone, Ray, you're nothing to me now. You're not a Celtic, you're not a friend. I don't want to know you or what you do. Ray, you are no longer family.