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Bob Ryan

Bashing Ray Allen for leaving is just wrong

Ray Allen looked for the pass in Game 5 of the Celtics’ Eastern Conference Finals playoff series against Miami.

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press/File

Ray Allen looked for the pass in Game 5 of the Celtics’ Eastern Conference Finals playoff series against Miami.

When I heard the news that my San Francisco Giants had traded Orlando Cepeda to the St. Louis Cardinals for Ray Sadecki, I reacted as any typical Giants fan would.

I threw a shoe out the dorm window.

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I probably would not have reacted that way today, but, hey, I was 20.

So, yes, I can empathize with any fan lamenting the departure of Ray Allen from the Celtics. I know all about being a fan.

What I cannot relate to is the astonishing level of hatred, anger, and vitriol being directed at Allen by the Celtics’ fandom. The idea that Ray Allen should be greeted upon his return in the uniform of the Miami Heat as anything other than a beloved alum is sadly disturbing. What is going on here?

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From the beginning there were three what I would call stab-in-the-heart destinations for Ray Allen. They were, in some order, New York, Los Angeles, and Miami. I must admit I thought that would be the order, too, that the most amount of fan distress would have come were Ray to have become a Knick. And maybe that would have been the case, except that at the moment I can’t quite see how the reaction could have been that much more negative than it is.

What does surprise me is that people ever thought the Celtics were ever the leader in this little derby to begin with. Think back to the regular season. Was it, or was it not, a complete and total given among all Celtics fans who were paying attention to these matters that Ray Allen would under no circumstances be returning to the Celtics for the 2012-13 season? The answer to that query would be a yes.

And this was before Avery Bradley injected himself into the equation. Once he did that, and once it became obvious that Ray was not happy about being an off-the-bench sparkplug (going so far as to state that he did not see himself as a Vinnie Johnson instant offense type), there really wasn’t much to talk about. There would be no lack of suitors for Ray Allen. He would leave, and life for the Celtics and their fans would go on.

People should have been preparing themselves to wish Ray Allen a fond goodbye, especially after the Celtics signed free agent Jason Terry.

I was startled when the word was passed that, even after signing Mr. Terry, the Celtics still had an interest in re-signing Allen. How was that, money aside, ever going to be in his best interest?

What this apparently did was complicate the fan feelings. Whereas the original story line was that Allen was being forced into the market because the Celtics had decided they would rather allocate their resources elsewhere, and that Ray was going to be just fine because he was exactly what some pretty good teams needed as the ribbon on their package, now the story was that Ray had a choice, and in the green-and-white-tinted eyes of some diehard Celtics/Boston fans, that meant he had no choice at all.

Well, of course Ray’s going to stay here. After all, he plays for the Celtics, and this is Boston, the World’s Greatest Sports Town. It was no longer a matter of a free agent exercising his contractual right. It had become a test of Ray Allen’s — I love this — loyalty.

This one calls for a full timeout, not merely a 20.

“Loyalty,” defined by Merriam-Webster as “being faithful to a cause or ideal,” is a ridiculously misapplied concept in this discussion. Ray Allen has been a dedicated and faithful employee of the Celtics for the past five years. In most every way he has been a model any young player should consider emulating. But I rather doubt he framed his employment as being faithful to a “cause” or “ideal.” He thought of it as being a thorough professional, no more, no less.

I’m sure he was proud to be a Celtic. I bet you he also would say he was likewise proud to be a Buck or a Sonic. I don’t see Ray as the type to romanticize his life as a professional basketball player as being in the pursuit of a cause or ideal. You pay me, I’ll give you my absolute best. If we happen to win a championship, that’s great. I’ll enjoy it.

It was a very fair and fruitful partnership.

Were the Celtics being “loyal” when they sought a trade for Ray Allen around the time of the All-Star break? No, they were exercising some business sense. Ray may have disagreed with their assessment of his situation, but he perfectly understood their right to do what they thought was best for their team; i.e. their business.

Going to Miami makes perfect sense to me. If the Heat are going to play the amnesty card with Mike Miller, the role of Registered Jump Shooter now can be filled by the most lethal Registered Jump Shooter of them all. Clearly, the Heat can put him on the floor with both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade for long stretches of games. And speaking of LeBron, would it not be an almost irresistible enticement to join forces with the best player in the world, especially when one of his great pluses is his great passing ability? LeBron is going to take great pleasure in having Ray Allen pad his assist total.

The big problem is that Celtics fans have been reading their own press clippings. People hereabouts have been told for far too long that they are living in the World’s Best Sports Town, which makes them, by extension, the World’s Best (and Most Deserving) Sports Fans. It’s all nonsense. There is no Best Sports Town. Every locale has its druthers and its non-druthers. There are many good sports fans here, but no more than, sorry, there are in New York, Philly, or Chicago, just to name three.

All Celtics fans have a right to feel sad that Ray Allen no longer will be playing here. I’m right there with them on that score. But vilifying him for exercising his right to be a free agent, and then signing elsewhere for half the money? Sport could use a thousand more bad guys like Ray Allen.

What fans should do is thank Danny Ainge for bringing him here in the first place and then wish Ray Allen the best.

P.S. Hey, Giants, how did that Cepeda trade work out?

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