As you may have heard, Ray Allen has left the Boston Celtics, taken his talents to South Beach, and teamed up with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Pat Riley, and the rest of the hated Miami Heat. Which is a shame. For Ray.
For the intrigued sports fan, the move guarantees even better basketball theater (we'll deal with possible playoff matchup implications later). For the Celtics, the team can thank Danny Ainge for reloading their team with an intriguing roster that appears, heading into the season, to have made the team both younger and better. But for Allen, whose move smacks of the sort of retribution usually reserved for jealous lovers, his new role as yet another player crowding into the shadow of LeBron James seems inherently less fullfilling than playing for any team other than the Miami Heat (let alone staying in Boston - for more money and a better contract situation, to boot).
Allen is not the first athlete, nor performer to be blessed with such an ego, of course. That characteristic seems a prerequisite for any successful professional sports player. But one of the true beauties of team sports is when the whole of the team is better than the sum of its proverbial parts. And it seems that Allen may have forgotten, or intentionally chosen to eskew that sports philosophy this past offseason.
"I look in '08 [when the Celtics won the NBA Championship], we had such an amazing run," Allen recently reminisced with EPSN Boston's incomparable Jackie MacMullan. "You look at guys like James Posey and P.J. Brown and Sammy [Cassell] and Leon [Powe]; we had so many players that understood their roles, and everyone just came in and did their part. It was 'Don't do too much; just do what you need to do to help the team win.'"
"Don't do too much ... do what you need to to help the team win." Good advice.
But what Allen seems to forget is that all of those guys he mentions, who were all intregal in the success of that year's team, came off the bench, and had what some (like Allen, for example) might look at as a diminished (though no less important) role. Heck, P.J. Brown came out of retirement halfway through the season. While James Posey carried on the Celtics tradition of the key Six Man, like Bill Walton, Kevin McHale, and John Havlicek before him. A role that seemed carved out for Allen this year. Until he tripped on his ego, and landed down in Miami. Where he's been unsuccessfully trying to explain (to others, if not convince himself of) the reasons for his departure from Boston. (During this week's Opening Night Heat defeat of the Celtics, Allen seemed unsure of which team to refer to as "us" versus "them.")
"The Celtics, especially coach Doc Rivers, have become increasingly annoyed with Allen’s reasoning for signing with the Heat," Gary Washburn writes for the Boston Globe. "In July, it was a decayed relationship with Rajon Rondo. In August, it was a reduced role and lack of respect. In September, it was the signing of Jason Terry. In October, it was not receiving recruiting calls from Rivers and Paul Pierce."
Blah blah blah. Too much money. A no-trade clause. But not enough love. Not enough coddling. Boo.
For the past five seasons, stormy though they've been, Ray Allen has been an integral part of a team that regularly overachieved, if that oxymoronic phrase is even a possibility. In the process, the Celtics became the NBA standard-bearers for those looking to test their mettle. Especially for LeBron James, and now the Miami Heat.
("We go into the season every year saying Boston is the team to beat," says Dwyane Wade. "We don't go in saying, 'Look out for OKC or the Lakers.' Boston is the team to beat for us.")
But Allen has traded that away. For a different kind of success that simply can't compare, no matter how shiny his second championship ring might be. He is now merely LeBron James' sidekick. Even if Allen hits an NBA Finals Game 7 buzzer-beating corner three, he is now riding the coat tails of the King.