MIAMI — Wednesday was more a neatly written, passionate goodbye letter from Ray Allen to the Celtics than the beginning of his time with the Heat.
Allen fully realized he had to say goodbye first, and he spent his introductory news conference at AmericanAirlines Arena offering thanks for his five years in Boston, but also explaining why he was in South Florida in the first place. The reasons for his departure are still cloudy.
Allen looked sullen during the news conference, as if bolting for Miami was more about what Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge didn’t do than what the Heat did.
Heat president Pat Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra, and team executive Alonzo Mourning simply offered their customary recruiting pitch, selling Allen on everything he already knew: great weather, the opportunity to play with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and the possibility of winning another championship.
But Allen revealed that he was lured by more than courting. There was no single determining factor, just a series of what Allen perceived as slights during his final season in Boston and the free agent process.
“It was a hard decision because as much as I felt about being home in Boston, having won a championship there, I just had to look at my own personal situation and ask myself, was I really going to be able to help coming back?” he said. “Was I going to be in a situation where I was going to be a part of what was going on moving forward?”
Allen was being pushed away, or perhaps steamrolled by the Celtics’ train of progress. The signing of Jason Terry, a three-year deal given to Kevin Garnett where Allen received just a two-year offer, and no real definition of his role drove him into the waiting arms of Riley.
Allen needed to be coddled as a free agent, even at 36. After being the good soldier for years, sacrificing shots, playing time, and finally his starting spot, he wanted an outpouring of gratitude from the Celtics. Like the wife who wants her longtime husband to don a suit, dust off his wingtips, and treat her as he did when they were dating, Allen wanted the Celtics to remember back to 2007, when they convinced him that leaving comfortable Seattle for the uncertainty of Boston would change his life, which it did.
Instead, Allen felt like an afterthought. Ainge said he called Allen at midnight the day free agency opened, and expressed the Celtics’ desire to keep him. But Allen apparently didn’t get the message.
“When Kevin signed, I was excited for him, I was excited that he signed a three-year deal, and I was expecting to be somewhere along the same [length],’’ he said. “It was kind of like they went in another direction and started signing everybody else, and I was sitting there in a free agency period and I’m looking at Miami and they’re so excited for me to come here and have an opportunity, and I didn’t get that same excitement from that side of the equation.”
The near trade this past season to the Grizzlies, Allen being told he was dealt, then informed it had fallen through, also took a toll. That uncertainty was something he said he never wanted to experience again. The Celtics dangled a no-trade clause in their two-year offer, but seemingly Allen was no longer convinced.
Allen waited too long to express his disenchantment. He quietly remained professional, believing that when free agency arrived, the Celtics would reward him for his service. In Miami, he cannot have such expectations, especially with a defending champion, but he is banking that he will share more offensive philosophies with Spoelstra than he did with Doc Rivers.
“Sometimes you’ve got to step out and clear your path a little bit more than you would have done otherwise and just let it be known,” Allen said. “But I acquiesced so much to the point where, at some point they said, ‘Well, Ray will be all right, he’ll figure himself out or he’ll get his touches, he’ll figure it out, we don’t worry about him.’ At some point it was to my own detriment because I didn’t create enough wave of an ego to let them know you have to stand up and speak for yourself and be accounted for.”
Allen’s relationship with Rajon Rondo was strained to the point where he didn’t mention the Celtics point guard by name Wednesday. But he maintained it wasn’t the determining factor in his exit. It appeared Paul Pierce didn’t exactly recruit Allen hard, either. Allen said he primarily talked with Garnett, who told him that Ainge would “step up to the plate and do whatever you need him to do.”
Ainge felt he had done enough. He insisted the Celtics treated Allen fairly, and called reporters just hours into free agency to express his desire for Allen to return. Allen took Miami’s offer, but on Wednesday realized the finality and magnitude of his move. But there’s no going back.
“Forever, I’ll always be a Celtic, no matter what,’’ Allen said. “I've seen [Glen Davis] down here during the playoffs watching [Game 5 vs. Miami] and I looked at him as a brother. We played against [Kendrick Perkins] during the year, it doesn’t change. In my mind, it never changes. I don’t care what people say about me, I’ll always stay true to the city of Boston and the fans there. They’ve been great to me. I’ll always consider that place home.”Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe.