WINTER PARK, FLA. – The Big Three is officially a memory. Ray Allen is headed to South Beach, leaving Celtics fans in a state of shock.
Allen agreed late Friday to join the Miami Heat with a three-year contract, according to NBA sources. Heat owner Mickey Arison let the NBA world know of the news through Twitter, making Allen’s departure from the Celtics painfully official.
Allen will go to Miami for half the money the Celtics were offering, choosing the sunnier weather, chance to play with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and a fresh start with a new team. Allen was visibly unhappy during his final season in Boston, again placed on the trade block because of his expiring contract and then having to approach Doc Rivers about moving to the bench when murmurs became louder that the team wanted to start second-year guard Avery Bradley.
The Celtics attempted a late run at Allen, offering $6 million per season for two years and promising a more defined role. But the team’s signing of Jason Terry, another 3-point marksman, clouded Allen’s status if he returned.
On Thursday, Allen met with Heat president Pat Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra and team executive Alonzo Mourning but left without agreeing to a contract. He returned to Boston Friday and informed the Heat of his decision in the evening.
For the Celtics, it marks the end of the Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Allen, who joined forces in 2007 and won an NBA title, lost in the seventh game of another and reached the Eastern Conference Finals just last year against the Heat.
Allen only started in that series because Bradley was out after shoulder surgery and his played with bone spurs in his right ankle, limiting his effectiveness. Allen underwent surgery to remove the spurs and the Celtics believed he would be ready to begin the season.
Danny Ainge told the Globe last Sunday that Allen’s return was his No. 1 priority after Kevin Garnett agreed to a three-year deal to return. But by then Allen was already considering other options. His meeting with the Los Angeles Clippers was canceled when they agreed to terms with Jamal Crawford, leaving the Heat as the Celtics’ primary competition for Allen.
With Mike Miller a likely candidate to have his contract removed with the amnesty clause, the Heat were in search of another shooter. James publicly lobbied for Allen to join the Heat while the Celtics were helpless in his free-agent pursuits.
The Big Three Era was one of the grandest in Celtics’ history, starting the current trend of three all-stars coming together to attempt to win a championship. With Garnett’s grit, Pierce’s midrange stroke and Allen’s long-range prowess, the Celtics instantly became one of the top teams in the NBA.
It appeared after that Game 7 loss to the Heat that the era was over, but Garnett re-signed for three more seasons and Ainge made the decision to reload. But one of those reloading decisions was to sign Terry to a three-year deal and Bradley is also expected to come back healthy in perhaps December, leaving Allen to ponder whether his situation would improve.