The '08 Celts put the ball in Ray's court to heal the rift on KG's Area 21
Soon-to-be 41 year old Kevin Garnett on Ray Allen leaving Boston to sign with Miami: "People don't understand that this is real life for us"— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) May 9, 2017
If you are reading this, you know what I am talking about already, almost certainly. From the moment I saw realization creep across the mug of one of the greatest shooters in league history that the title window for the Boston Celtics was slamming shut as they were being eliminated by the Miami Heat in 2012 that Ray was out, a pending free agent in a well-known hostile situation with some of his teammates. And I was OK with that, in the moment. Rajon Rondo, the biggest point of friction for my favorite player, was hard to get along with - this was no secret - and Avery Bradley had usurped (rightfully) a fair share of his minutes. Besides, what loyalty do you owe a GM (Danny Ainge) who had repeatedly dangled you in trade talks, with little warning or awareness?
This is, after all, a business.
Granted, it's a business myself and many others - Kevin Garnett and last night's Area 21 crew among them - treat a lot more like family. And family, myself being from Connecticut, is what Ray felt like long before he ever suited up in Boston. Following a gangly teenager from Dalzell, South Carolina from relative obscurity and awkward post-game interviews to epic duels with Allen Iverson in Madison Square Garden didn't just keep me entertained - it gave me something to believe in, to aspire to when I was in a bad place in life. The Connecticut I am from is not the wealthy one most people think of, but the run-down, post-industrial, poorer central part of the state, and basketball was one of the few things we had going for us in the northeast - first (in my life) the Celts, and when they fell off in my early teens, Ray and company were right there waiting, transforming the local state agricultural school's nascent college team into the blue-collar Blue Blood it would eventually become, in large part because of Mr. Allen.
Ray Allen hits the circus shot to win #UConn it's first Big East tournament against Iverson's Georgetown (1996) pic.twitter.com/khIgxFAWC3— Keith 🇱🇹🇨🇦📎 (@KeithMcC29) March 25, 2017
Fast forward a little more than a dozen years, and you can imagine my joy to have him come home and unite the two strands of my basketball fandoms, and not just through being a Celtic, but as part of one of the most potent superteams ever assembled. For a half-decade, it was ideal, but even ideal things - maybe especially ideal things - don't last. We know how the story played out, and while I have (very publicly) made my case why Ray deserved better than he got (he did), I have also always been of the opinion that even with all this in mind, he could have handled things better (and I still believe that). Rumblings of a player-organized reunion floating around the NBA ether brought these still-painful questions back to the foreground, and I thought I was going to be in for more awkward conversations and maybe even some character assassination between Rondo and Ray.
Then the Area 21 reunion finally went down, and I could not have been more wrong.
This is the kind of wrong I love to be, a departure from the negativity swirling around the schism - likely amplified in certain media circles looking for clicks over looking for closure - with Garnett, Paul Pierce, Glen Davis and especially Kendrick Perkins speaking with heartfelt earnestness about the pain the schism has caused them, how they came to terms with the departure, and how the door is open to make things right (for a detailed recounting, check the video linked above, or the extended transcripts via MassLive's Jay King here).
Some key excerpts (again, courtesy of King):
"The situation with Ray is very sensitive. ... when Ray decided to go to the Heat I felt like he moved on. And he want to pursue another ring, and he got another ring, shout out to him. That's it." - Garnett
"I was initially hurt by the whole way everything went down. ... I don't have no beef with none of my teammates or nothing. I was just hurt on how it went down, how we all came together, we talked about it, we talked every day, we hung out all the time, and then when it was time for free agency -- and to each his own with free agency; if Perk wanted to go somewhere, if Rondo (or) you (did), that's cool -- but I thought we formed a brotherhood here in Boston.... I just figured, like, if it was me leaving or KG leaving, I would have been like, 'You know what, Rondo, Perk, Baby, this is what I've been thinking about.' That's what I was hurt by when Ray didn't just at least give us a head's up about it. ... I don't know how his relationship was with Doc. It was kind of souring at the time because Avery was getting more minutes and so I could understand all that, but I just felt like we should have had a conversation. ... I don't think it would have been as salty after. Even though it was Miami, we hated Miami, and that was our rival ... I just think if we had all just talked about it, it would have been a little different than it is now." - Pierce
"...I just feel like it ain't what Ray did, it's how he did it. I feel like that's what caused the problem. At the end of the day we're all grown, we're brothers, but it's not that we thought we had formed a family -- we did form a family. We all done shed tears together, talked about some of the deepest things -- I'm talking about outside of basketball that the world didn't know about. And if he felt like he wanted to go that way and do it, I just think he could have handled it a different way. Just the lack of communication, man, or however it was. But at the end of the day I feel like time heels all wounds." - Perkins
I did not expect to see this, and went to bed happy, thinking maybe this schism could actually be put to bed. Then I woke up to this:
Ray Allen apparently didn't like his old teammates' comments last night. Posted this on FB this morn. #Celtics #PettyWarz @World_Wide_Wob pic.twitter.com/YqPI6lur60— Adam Kaufman (@AdamMKaufman) May 9, 2017
It's entirely possible this photo, with this caption, was just a coincidence. It's also possible I live in a computer simulation of reality so good, I can only notice minor details occasionally getting screwed up (see also: the Berenstain/stein Bears). Probably, though, someone is still salty, and after all this time I have come around enough to say this:
Get it together, Ray - you need to let go of that ego, that high horse, whatever the hell you happen to be on, and make the call. It's not about image, or branding, or even legacy. It's about guys who gutted it out for you - even ones you might not like that much - and who built something very rare indeed (a championship team) together; guys who had the presence of mind to balance the hurt of how you left with their understanding of you as a professional and an individual who was also part of something as important to them as anything.
Do the right thing, Ray.
For more articles on CelticsLife about Ray Allen, click here. For more by Justin, click here.
Photo via Area 21
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