MIAMI — Does it really have to be like this?
Ray Allen didn’t like losing his starting job in Boston. Ray didn’t like Rajon Rondo. He didn’t feel appreciated by the Celtics.
So Ray made a deal with the hoop devil. He signed with the Miami Heat.
And now Kevin Garnett gives him the Sicilian “you’re dead to me’’ attitude.
The Celtics came to Miami for the much-anticipated 2012-2013 season opener Tuesday night and Ray the Heat looked like Ray the Celtic. Ray made his first shot, a wide-open three from the left corner. He made his free throws. Miami fans chanted, “We got Ray! We got Ray!’’ Allen scored 19 points in 31 minutes of a 120-107 Heat victory.
But the takeaway moment came when KG refused to acknowledge Allen when Allen patted Garnett on the shoulder before checking into the game for the first time.
It was like watching Cam Neely and Ulf Samuelsson. Bill Belichick and Eric Mangini. Larry Lucchino and Scott Boras. Ray hugged Doc Rivers, then embraced a couple of Celtics assistant coaches. When he patted Garnett on the left shoulder, KG stared straight ahead. You could feel the frost forming on Garnett’s bald pate.
“He didn’t react,’’ Allen said after the game. “You guys know KG. I don’t take anything from it. He’s an intense competitor. Later, he came out. He gave me a dap [fist bump].’’
Garnett said, “You know what, man, I was just trying to stay as neutral as I could but obviously I’m an intense person. Other than that it was blank, I just saw the Heat uniforms and obviously he’s on the other side and I just tried to play the game, man.”
“It was a peace offering,’’ said Allen. “You never know what’s being said in the media. We don’t see or hear everything. I deal with people. I deal with what we see face-to-face. You can be angry at me, it’s not gonna change how I feel about you.’’
Goodness. Can’t we all just get along? Ray was in Boston five years. He was part of the New Big Three. He was part of a championship team.
Here’s hoping he gets better treatment from Celtics fans when the Heat come to Boston in January.
Allen was the center of attention throughout Tuesday night.
An hour before the first Celtics bus left the team hotel in downtown Miami, Allen was already on the court at AmericanAirlines Arena, going through his meticulous shooting routine. The Allen shooting drill was a part of the game-day experience on Causeway Street for the last five years. Allen’s practice regularly coincided with the late-afternoon walk-through by the Celtics dancers. It amounted to a win-win for reporters who made the effort to get to the gym early for Ray’s routine. The dancers were always careful to steer clear of Ray’s shooting paths.
Allen was off the floor by 5 p.m., more than three hours before the opening tap, but like anyone else in the arena he was aware of the presence of the Larry O’Brien trophy and the Heat championship rings at center court.
I wish Red Auerbach had been in South Beach to comment on the Heat’s hideous handling of the hardware.
It was truly ridiculous. The trophy and the rings were hidden by a circular red curtain dropped from the overhead scoreboard. Four police officers stood guard in front of the precious metal.
Excuse me. Didn’t these guys win a championship in 2006? Whatever happened to “act like you’ve been there before.’’ Red had championship rings rattling around in his sock drawer. No police protection. No veils of self importance.
Allen sat off in the corner with other Heat newcomers during the ring ceremony. The Celtics stayed in their locker room. Rivers felt no need to go Joe Torre on us and have his players watch the celebration to remind them of their part in the other guy’s success. None of the Celtics was in the arena to hear commissioner David Stern kick off the program by asking everyone to pay respects to victims of “Katrina.’’ Yes, he said, “Katrina.’’
Ray was going through lineup drills with his typical coolness when the Celtics finally emerged from their private quarters. He admitted it was weird seeing Paul Pierce, Garnett, and Rondo at the other end of the floor.
“It was very strange,’’ said Allen. “A couple of times I found myself running down the floor asking myself which team I should be guarding. My natural inclination was to guard the guys in the Heat jerseys.’’
Allen knows it will be tricky when the Heat make their first trip to Boston.
“Obviously when you are on the other team, people are going to root against me, hate me, boo me, whatever,’’ said Allen. “But Boston has the best fans I’ve seen in my career. That doesn’t change. I’m a New England guy. You have to do what you have to do.’’
Allen’s role as a reserve with the Heat is somewhat amusing to Celtics fans who trash him for leaving because he was no longer a starter in Boston. Still, it’s understandable why he would go to Miami: it’s a shot at another ring, he’ll always be open, and the weather is significantly better than it was in his last four basketball outposts: Boston, Seattle, Milwaukee, and Storrs, Conn.
Allen’s first touch resulted in a shot-clock-beating trey from the left corner as Jason Terry rushed to recover. In the final minute of the first, Allen was fouled (by KG) driving and made two free throws while Miami fans chanted, “We got Ray! We got Ray!’’
“That felt good,’’ said Allen. “I never thought I would hear that here.’’
But the takeaway moment of opening night was the Big Chill from Garnett. It was a cold moment, almost Red Sox-ian.
And it made you wonder . . . why does it always end badly in Boston?