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Ray Allen joins Miami Heat: No such thing as traitors here

Jul 7, 2012, 11:30 AM EDT

Ray Allen AP

In 2007, Ray Allen had spent five years in Seattle. There were likely kids in Seattle who had Ray Allen jerseys. Sonics fans touted him as a great scorer. The team wasn’t great. But Allen had ties to the Sonics at that point, since coming over in a trade from Milwaukee. Allen didn’t have a choice when he was traded from Seattle to the Boston Celtics. But ask yourself, do you think he resisted for a heartbeat when they asked him about being traded to Boston to join Paul Pierce and conceivably Kevin Garnett (the deal hadn’t been pulled off yet)? Do you think he hesitated and said “what about my time with Seattle?”

No, because Ray Allen is not an idiot. Seattle’s time of even possibly being in contention was over. They were not a good team, but more importantly, they did not afford him the best opportunity to win. He was traded, but it might as well have been a free agency decision.

The point? With Ray Allen joining the Miami Heat, this is the second super-team Allen has joined in five years. And the first time, there were no comments about him being a traitor. There were no calls of Ray Allen or Kevin Garnett selling out. It was a feel-good story. “Isn’t it great? They joined the Celtics!”

I’m not here to deny that there are differences in the two situations. Seattle and Boston weren’t rivals. Boston hadn’t just slammed the door shut on Seattle’s improbable title run, with Paul Pierce scoring 45 points and leaving a half-empty building chanting “Let’s Go Sonics.” There wasn’t a special bond between Allen and Rashard Lewis, the other Sonics star spit off as the Sonics/Thunder began their rebuilding process. There was no Ubuntu in Seattle.

And Boston fans, this isn’t about  you. You get to feel however you want, within reason. Fandom isn’t rational, you hate Miami, you loved Ray. It happens. This is about everyone else. The internet is subtly littered today with words like “traitor” and “sell-out.” There’s a quiet resentment even among national media that, despite LeBron James‘ seeming rehabilitation in terms of his public persona, still has an old-school attachment to Boston and a poisoned resentment of Boston. Kevin Garnett screams and pounds his chest? “Look at the intensity!” LeBron James poses after a dunk? “What a preening fool!” The double-standard in the reaction between the two teams is enough to force a multiple-personality disorder.

As if joining a super-team in Boston is a heart-warming story and joining a super-team in Miami is a travesty representative of the terrible team-ups that are occurring. I’ve been beating this drum for two years, but guess who started this trend? Guess what the first modern-era superstar team to kick off this trend was?

Your Boston Celtics.

Maybe if nothing else this is a revisionist criticism of the idea that Ubuntu mattered. We bought into the concept that the Celtics were truly great because they sacrificed. They were different from other teams because of their attitudes and sacrifice. Yet there was always an order of ego in Boston, with Pierce and KG at the top, and Rondo climbed that ladder as he got better. Adrian Wojnarowski points to the reasons why Allen left, and they include Rajon Rondo‘s personality, the Celtics’ repeated efforts to trade him, the ways that the relationship was damaged enough to drive Allen to South Beach.

But let’s not get this twisted. Allen’s not burning bridges on his way out. Boston will burn those bridges as he leaves, and that’s fine. But Allen is a true professional. He’ll say nothing but good things about his time in Boston, and about their 2008 championship. But just as the Celtics elected to consider trading him because they felt it was their best chance at winning a title, Allen left because he knows a truth that no one else in Boston is willing to accept.

Their run is over.

Yeah, they made the Eastern Conference Finals, on the back of a Derrick Rose injury, a Sixers team that almost but couldn’t quite get its head out of the offensive sand long enough to knock them off, and an NBA seeding process that continues to boggle by not re-seeding after the first round. They pushed the Heat to the bring of elimination. It was right there. Even in Game 7.

But if you were paying attention, if you watched the Celtics’ reaction and the way Miami played, you’d know it.

LeBron James ended the Celtics’ title run. Not for last season. For this era.

James scored 45 points, locked up the East, locked up the Garden, turned out the lights on the Big 3 era, and as it turns out, took Ray Allen back to South Beach with him not just for Game 7, but for the end of his career. That’s when it was over. Boston’s lead in Game 7 never felt safe, never felts secure, there could be no confidence. And when it came down, they buckled. The strain was too much, the age was too great, the Heat were too good.

And so Ray Allen goes where he can win a title. Boston can still be the third best team in the East. Have some injury luck, again, and they can be right back in the Eastern Conference Finals. But the problem with age is that once it starts to have an impact, it only hurts more. Allen will suffer that as well. But Boston’s dependent on it. Jason Terry will help, but there were signs that he was slowing down last season. Not everyone starts the slide at the same time. Boston’s still relevant, they’re just contenders.

And beyond that, we act as if these rivalries are real. Like they matter. Paul Pierce was hanging out with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James during the lockout. Garnett and Kobe Bryant are close friends. Guess what, kids? As has been said so often, it’s just laundry.

Ray Allen’s no traitor, he’s just a player who decided to pursue his last, best chance at a title. He took less money to join a better team. In an era that has seen stars in their primes make worse decisions by choosing the money over the better team, maybe we should hold off on the witch hunt.

Funnily enough, “traitor” isn’t a position on the basketball floor.

  1. jimeejohnson - Jul 7, 2012 at 4:28 PM

    That’s what I like about this article: it refutes the ignorance and hate. I give Miami the credit they deserve and have seen right through the LeBron hate as the same jealous ignorance that fuels racism, but disagree that Boston’s run is over. The same could be said for Los Angeles’ run, but I never count out teams like the Lakers or the Celtics. “They’ll be bock (say like the Governator)!”

  2. packersareandwillalwaysbebetterthanthebears - Jul 7, 2012 at 4:38 PM

    If anyone truly believes the way the Heat and Celtics came together have anything in common besides a championship and three quality players is an idiot. The way it was created in Boston, through GM magic was very different than the best buddies of the 2004 draft deciding to team up long before 2010 free agency.

    • asgfl1 - Jul 7, 2012 at 6:48 PM

      The same crap. Crybaby This is a business and a Job for the guys.
      All the players are friends, maybe you dont know that Paul Pierce and Wade are buddies and have been hanging out. KG and Kobe too. If they talk business is it not moral? Balloney!

  3. marzxyz - Jul 7, 2012 at 5:00 PM

    Let’s not get hysterical. When the final chapter in basketball history is written, the Boston Celtics will NOT be remembered for pioneering the “Big Three” era. The Celtics will be remembered for perfecting the art of TEAM basketball, winning 11 titles in 13 seasons (with one or two All-Stars per year.) I acknowledge, however, that one of those All-Stars, Bill Russell, was arguably the greatest basketball player of all time.

    • bozosforall - Jul 7, 2012 at 11:49 PM

      Auerbach manipulated the system, cheating all along the way. Besides, they won those titles in an eight team league, so big deal.

    • jimmymarlinsfan - Jul 8, 2012 at 12:25 AM

      Reminder, you live in America. Most people forgot the Miami Heat are Champions of the World already and are working on forgetting what they had for dinner…never mind what happened during the 60’s….it’s a losing argument…just saying

    • rawgator06 - Jul 8, 2012 at 3:23 AM

      how humble of you to acknowledge that Bill Russell was a great player

  4. joregon - Jul 7, 2012 at 5:11 PM

    I don’t have any issue with him leaving.
    I’m a Trailblazer fan. I was not a Sonic supporter…BUT
    The idea Ray was sent to Boston was because Seattle wasn’t contending is BS.
    Bennett did everything he could to tear down support for the Sonics so he could take the team to OKC. Getting rid of Allen was critical, so was hiring PJ Carlesimo to coach. Once the team went to OKC Carlesimo was fired after 13 games.

  5. ivo610 - Jul 7, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    Boston repeatedly tried to trade him last season and people are bitter for him not resigning?

    Might want to point that traitor finger at someone other than ray if you are upset at what happened.

  6. ima9er4life - Jul 7, 2012 at 6:52 PM

    nu certain

  7. daknight93 - Jul 7, 2012 at 8:27 PM

    I don’t believe Ray Allen is a sellout…Geez, he may retire next season and he wants to ride out in the sunset and tho I’m not a heat fan, his last best shot for a ring is to move to younger and faster team with the heat…Ray may have up to 2yrs left and he’s done if he stays healthy…this is really not a big deal that he left Boston

  8. asublimeday - Jul 8, 2012 at 1:50 AM

    Lost in all this is how much ray Allen currently sucks.

  9. snipedanglecelly13 - Jul 8, 2012 at 10:24 AM

    I thought miami was out of money after big 3 lol r they now?

  10. mlblogspaxromana - Jul 8, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    Ray Allen couldn’t even hit his free throws in the playoffs. much less three point shots. He was a great player whose time has passed.

    • Kurt Helin - Jul 8, 2012 at 12:21 PM

      He also was injured, he needed off-season ankle surgery.

  11. thehumburger - Jul 8, 2012 at 8:01 PM

    Heat fans use this defense of how their team was assembled all the time–i.e., that the Celtics did the same thing, bringing in three all-stars to play together–but I wouldn’t think a “journalist” would be that dumb. In fact, he admits how it was different, then continues as if it were the same.

    The Celtics spent years collecting assets and used them to make trades with teams looking to get rid of their older stars and go young. Like the author initially states, “Allen didn’t have a choice when he was traded from Seattle to the Boston Celtics,” before he went on to make the analogy as if he had a choice. That’s how championship teams have always been put together: a smart front office drafting well, making smart trades, and filling in a complementary and bench players via free agency. It takes years of work by the organization (with the commensurate years of hope by the fans). On the other hand…

    The Heat was the first team in league history to collect a group of stars of their caliber in their primes via free agency. LeBron James was the first reigning MVP to leave his team to seek help from other stars on another team in order to win. It was an unprecedented way that a championship team was assembled and of course people will dislike them more for it. You’re not a “hater” if you cheer against the ultimate over-dogs in all of sports. You’re a true sports fan.

    P.S. The only reason Ray Allen isn’t a traitor is because he’s old and, except for catch-and-shoot 3s, doesn’t offer anything (really, he doesn’t even handle the ball well under pressure). He’s simply chasing another ring, as old players do. If he was younger and the Celtics were relying on him to contend and he signed with the team that just beat them in the playoffs, he’d be the very definition of a traitor. As sports go, anyway.

  12. daknight93 - Jul 8, 2012 at 8:45 PM

    It wasn’t about the money cause Ray has earned over 178M over his career…Ray taking 3M just shows he wants one last shot at a ring next season…if Rose didn’t get injured, Boston probably wouldn’t make it to conference finals…the odds of Boston making it again gets slimmer and are considered the 3rd best team in the East…If I were Ray, I would’ve joined Heat as well…chances are much higher for heat to get to finals than celtics.

  13. big13country - Jul 9, 2012 at 12:44 AM

    Are you kidding me? Injury luck? If it wasn’t for injuries, the celtics would be NBA champions…

  14. 4Q - Jul 9, 2012 at 3:18 AM

    The big difference is Doc Rivers convinced Danny Ainge to keep the Celtics together for another run and Ainge listened and didn’t blow the team up. Allen bailing on his homeboys is the real story here that no one is talking about. Also, is Ray Allen that sensitive that his feelings were bruised because Rondo didn’t give him enough touches or that his name was rumored in trade talks so he’s going to show Boston who’s in charge by running off to South Beach? Hey, Ray Allen that is life in the NBA! Suck it up you girly-man! Actually, Ray will feel right at home with the other prima-donnas down in South Beach.

  15. quancao - Jul 9, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    Good article, Matt. bring some sanity and perspective back to the picture instead of just feeding the hate and the bitterness like other writers and fand have done. Two realities which you underscore which most people miss. These guys are friends, first and foremost. Second, that teams go through rebuilding and while Boston and LA may not want to face some hard, cold facts, they are going to have some lean years. OKC is building, and Miami went through 2 tough years after their 06 trophy.

  16. bhester1906 - Jul 10, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    How is celtics hear a rivalry again? I though a rivalry was when two teams beat one another over time in the playoffs. Celtics haven’t beat the heat in the playoffs.

    • thehumburger - Jul 10, 2012 at 1:12 PM

      Lol … They may not be a rivalry, but your last statement shows exactly how long you have been watching the Heat: since they signed James and Bosh.

  17. 1historian - Jul 14, 2012 at 7:36 AM

    What is wrong with someone choosing where he wants to work?

    Just asking

  18. missfrenchy45 - Sep 26, 2012 at 1:48 AM

    I am a huge Celtics, and I can openly say that I am disappointing as hell. There are so many teams in the nba but he was only able to chose the heat? this is more a joke that something else. Allen does not have the ego to say that next year i am going to beat them ? he just has taken the easy way. I am just so mad, we have such great players now it wads possible to play the title. that was a selfish choice. just so irritating about that. by the way i really can stand the heat. now the nba is two big teams lakers and heat with all the good players in it. this just unbelievable and sad at the same time…

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