I find it extremely tough to hate Ray Allen. I really do.
He is the true symbol of the oft-cited yet rarely actualized “consummate professional athlete.” In a league with players now known just as much for their general spoiled brat-edness as their thuggery, Ray has been a beacon. Unlike many highlighted by Jeff Van Gundy in the first quarter of nationally televised games, Ray really does show up first and is the last to leave, arriving hours before any other player to get his shots in. His competitive fire burned as bright as anyone else during the recent Big Three Celtics era (odd to now call it a “recent” era…). While KG’s is like a firework, exploding for all to see, Ray’s fire eternally burns internal. Each lethal three-point dagger he threw during his five year tenure in green was celebrated with a simple hand gesture: holding his fore, middle and ring fingers by his side as he jogged back towards the other end of the court. Nothing more, nothing less. The only time I can remember Ray showing any type of self-congragulatory zeal was last season, when against the Lakers at home he became the league’s all time 3-point shooting champion and hugged former leader/current specatator Reggie Miller, who was sitting courtside. Etching your name in eternity calls for a little celebration every now and then.
Ray always says the right things. Even during the second half of this past season when he was benched in favor of second year youngster Avery Bradley, even after being the biggest worm in the Celtics trade bait, even after seeing the team to whom he had brought a championship only four years’ prior and almost a second two years’ prior clearly making plans to move on without him, Ray said nothing. He came off the bench, struggled mightily, and still said he was simply happy to be on a winning team. Always gracious in defeat, humble in victory. He and his family had become favorites in the Boston area, assisting in numerous charitable foundations, his mom taking over Lucky’s position as team mascot. When others started wearing lensless glasses and fucking red-striped polos with fishes on them, Ray wore a suit, never flashy, but fitted, as the original spirit of the dress code intended. He was anything and everything you could ask for in a Boston athlete.
Yet today, July 9 2012, I hate Ray Allen with the power of a thousand ’06 Johnny Damons.
I hate the fact that he left Boston for less money somewhere else. I hate that he did so due to a bitter relationship with Rajon Rondo. I hate that his playing time had become a detriment to his relationship with Doc. I hate that he abandoned Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett because he felt that other teammates would be a better fit for him. I hate that he was angry that Danny Ainge made signing Kevin Garnett a priority over him, when anyone with a brain can easily see it was the right strategy. I hate that he thinks the Jason Terry signing meant that the Celtics had cut him loose, as opposed to the other way around.
But what I really hate is that he is now a member of the Miami Heat.
A sign-of-the-times: On Friday night, the Red Sox were facing the Yankees in Fenway, the first game of the last series before the all-star break, with the Red Sox having the opportunity to pole vault to within striking distance of the the division lead. It was all for naught as the Yankees would grasp victory from the Red Sox’ broken hands, winning a truly wild game 10-8.
In about the 5th inning the news leaked. Ray Allen, after flying back to Boston from Miami only a few hours beforehand, had declared he would be signing with the Heat. Ray had flashed his fore, middle and ring fingers (most prominently the middle finger) this time toward’s the C’s and assasinated the Big Three era while also making the best team in the league even better. The local twittersphere erupted with #JudasShuttlesworth.
The signing dominated the weekend Boston sports news cycle. I can’t remember the last time I have heard Boston sports fans so polarized on talk radio. Some wanted Ray’s head (as ESPN’s Chris Forsburg wrote, it might be tough for Ray to leave his house in Wellesley considering the amount of green pitchforks hoisted outside his door), calling him a traitor or a dissapointment. Others declared that it was time to move on, or that the team is better without him, or that Boston fans are a bunch of cry-babys (not true, you big ol’ fat dummies!!).
One thing that unified Celtics fan was a desire for a reason why. Whereas the situation had become monumental, the specific reason for it remained shrouded in mytery. Boston offered him twice as much money as the Heat. Isn’t that what athletes do- Take the most amount of money? It’s not like Ray was leaving a bum team. He was leaving the second best team in the East, a team one way away from the Finals this year, which, considering the performance of the Thunder they may have very well have won.
Doc, hiding in Florida, was interviewed about the news on Saturday. He deftly deflected the questions with vague answers and generalities, conveying a general aura of dissapointment, and not much else. It’s still a great interview, which you should read. Doc is gifted in making nothing-answers sound like something-answers. (Belicheck is equally giftered for the corolary.)
Rondo Rebellion: If I were a betting man I would place money on the relationship with Rondo as being the main catalyst. Rondo and Ray was a partnership doomed to eventually fail, not because of their differences, but because of their similarities. They are similar in every single way in which two people who have to work together would end up hating each other. Both are fiercely competitive. Both are
fiercely silent. Both are incredibly talented. Both are incredibly intelligent. The end result is two guards with hall of fame worthy talents who hate not being the best, and have the wherewithal to realize that they can and should be the best, while also struggling to find ways to communicate with one another. I imagine that, since 2007 there was a lot of awkwardly polite “hey”s as they passed each other in the hallway, only to bitch about the other guy to the next person they encountered.
Put yourself in Ray’s shoes for a second. They’re probably bigger than yours, but you can still walk around for a few steps. Have you ever worked with someone you can’t stand? Of course you have. Everyone has. One of the reasons that you couldn’t stand them was because you knew that they would be there for as long as you would be, probably even longer. He or she might be the guy/girl that answers his/her phone too loud, or always asks to go to lunch just so they can bitch about their job while also bragging about their car.
One day, you get a call from a rival company who’s offering you, perhaps not better money, but a higher position with better benefits. That annoying dude/chick probably doesn’t cross your mind for the first few weeks exploring this new opportunity. They are just a minor part of your general annoyances with your current company. Yet, as you beging to seriously consider it, all of a sudden that person become a lot more abrasive. They talk louder; they now want you to have lunch with them every goddamn day. Maybe even they get a pay raise. The idea of not having to constantly see their miserable face becomes very tantalizing, and soon you begin to think that you can establish a countdown to the day that you don’t have to work next to them. They become the personification of your extreme hatred of your current company. That asshole is the reason why you’re miserable, and the new company will make you happier, primairly because of the absense of him/her.
If this is the case, then good riddance, Ray. Rondo is the Celtics now, so take care. Each year that he has donned the #9 he has improved exponentially. In 2007 he was a rookie on a horrible squad. In 2008 he was an essential part of a championship squad. In 2009 entered the national conversation as a clutch game-changer in the playoff series against the Bulls. In 2010 he showed he could be the spark that lights an otherwise elderly team, firing them into the finals with triple doubles galore. In 2011 he became the league’s preeminent passer, and also cemented his status as the arguably the toughest player in the NBA, competing and winning a dramatic playoff game only minutes after suffering a dislocated shoulder against the Heat. In 2012 he was the most valuable player in a playoff series agains the world’s best player in LeBron James, the 44 point game etching his own name in eternity. This is his team, which Pierce, KG, Doc, Danny Ainge and others understand and appreciate. Ray had taken offense to it, and was willing to leave his brethren behind to depart from it forever.
“Ray considers himself a smart guy,” a source told Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski. “But at some point, it became hard for Ray to be corrected by a guy so much younger than him.”
Fare thee well: “I told Kevin, I know I’m biased, but these are the best fans I’ve ever played in front of or ever seen in my life,” Ray Allen told the press after the heartbreaking and ultimately backbreaking Game 6 loss against the Heat. “I’ll talk about that forever, just knowing we’re down
20 and these people are still standing up, cheering us on, because they know we just have to win one game.”
Ray leaves behind a team to which, no matter where he goes, he will always be connected, a team that forever transformed him in one great season from one of the best to the best, from superstar to champion. His fingers, part of the hands that won so many games in clutch moments with the best shot in history, will probably be fitted with a couple more rings now that he has joined the new Big 3. The ring that shines green, however, will remain the heaviest, probably even heavier now that he has defected. Ray Allen had to tell Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett that he thought he was a better fit with LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. He has left behind a fanbase that he truly considered the best in sports. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been.
But it was his choice. He didn’t dig his own grave, sort to speak, but built his own escalator back to the top. Fare thee well, Ray. I truly wish you luck in your new venture. But just remember the team you left behind. They will be there at the end with you once again, I have no doubt. Only this time on the other side of the court. You know full well that no squad is better built, no team better coached, to be a thorn in the side of those that have been pre-anointed, and they will be chomping at the bit to take you down.