Ray Allen said he has never had his number retired at any level, and that if the Celtics became the first team to do so, “It would probably be one of the single greatest honors in my career.”
Allen, speaking Wednesday before the Celtics faced the Miami Heat at TD Garden, also said, “Regardless of what happens in the rafters, I look up there [and] there’s a banner. And that’s what makes it so special.”
It was clear at game time that Celtics fans still have mixed feelings about Allen for signing with the Heat in 2012 after five seasons in Boston.
Allen checked in to a hearty round of boos, and fans booed each time he touched the ball, cheering only if he missed a shot. Allen finished with 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting in Miami’s 101-96 loss.
But Allen, who won a championship in Boston alongside Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in 2008, said he doesn’t have any mixed feelings about the Celtics or Boston.
“I love this city,” he said. “My family loves it. It still remains my home. We live only an hour from here.”
Now in his 18th season, the 38-year-old Allen gave no indication that he’s thinking about retirement. He noted that the length of his career is perhaps what he’s most proud of, and for that he credited baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., who played in a record 2,632 consecutive games and whom Allen said he met last year on the night the Heat won their second straight championship.
“I had the opportunity to tell him that he was one of the reasons [that] when I came into the NBA, I wanted to be reliable,” Allen said. “I said, I don’t know if I’m going to be good, but what I want to do is be reliable and show up every day, and he showed me that.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he doesn’t know LeBron James well, but when the teams met in Miami for the first time in November, James came up to Stevens and wished him well, adding, “Welcome to the NBA.”
James, who didn’t play Wednesday night because of back spasms, said he doesn’t do that with every new coach.
“I didn’t plan to do it,” James said before the game. “It just happened. A well-respected college coach, what he was able to do, taking that Butler team to two straight Final Four appearances, and he seems like a pretty cool guy.
“ I don’t know him personally but he seems cool. Welcome to the NBA. It’s pretty cool.”
Stevens said that when he coached at Butler, he recruited one of James’s friends, who ended up playing at Akron instead.
“Obviously, I would have loved to have recruited [James],” Stevens said with a laugh. “Wasn’t in the cards.”
It’s NCAA Tournament time, and while Stevens said he has fond memories of coaching in it, he’s glad to be able to enjoy it as a fan this time.
“I’ve said for the last 13 years, the thing that I’ve missed the most is being a fan,” Stevens said. “And this tournament, when I have time, when I’m not getting ready for who we are playing, I’m going to treat it as being a fan. I’m going to treat myself to being a fan a little bit. I’m looking forward to that.”
Stevens also said he’s filled out his bracket.
“I have one at home, but it’s just an in-home deal and I’m not going to get into the picks. I’m not going to put myself out there like that. I filmed my 4-year-old daughter picking hers and it is quite entertaining. You can imagine. American is in the Final Four because we have an American flag.”
Just as Stevens took a midmajor team to the Final Four in consecutive years, he acknowledged that he picked a midmajor to reach the Final Four this year.
Picking his spots
Speaking of the tournament, Rajon Rondo likes Michigan State and Louisville to advance to the championship game, with the Spartans coming out on top. The point guard posted a photo of his bracket on his Twitter account Tuesday evening. The other two teams he picked to reach the Final Four: Arizona and Florida. Rondo picked his alma mater, Kentucky, to advance to the Sweet 16 before being defeated by Louisville. He also picked Harvard to win its opener before falling to Michigan State, and for UMass to lose its first game . . . After undergoing surgery on his left ankle and knee this month, Gerald Wallace showed up at the Garden without a boot or crutches, saying he shed them Tuesday. From here, Wallace said the rehabilitation will focus on strengthening his knee.Baxter Holmes can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BaxterHolmes.