SPRINGFIELD — A mere 90.7 miles from TD Garden, Ray Allen is being inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame on Friday, and it’s time to let him back into the Celtics fraternity.
Yes, he signed with the Miami Heat in 2012, spurning the Celtics contract offer that was twice the money. But that offer and Allen’s relationship with the Celtics featured so many complexities.
Allen never felt truly wanted by the Celtics, who could have signed him to an extension during his final season. The Celtics’ first free-agent call in July 2012 was to Jason Terry, a 3-point shooting guard two years’ Allen’s junior, and Allen perceived that as a major hint.
And Allen was lured by the opportunity to play with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. He won a title in Miami. It wasn’t a bad decision. He made the most famous and significant basket in Miami Heat history.
Six years after he left Boston, Allen is getting his Hall of Fame due. He is now officially a legend, his photo will be placed amongst the all-time greats in the montage at the ceiling of the Naismith Hall of Fame. Allen speaks fondly of his time with the Celtics, the championship, the championship runs, breaking the all-time 3-point record.
The Class of 2018 also features inductees Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Grant Hill, former Celtics Charlie Scott, and Dino Radja, ex-76ers guard Maurice Cheeks and women’s legends, Katie Smith and Tina Thompson.
And of all of Allen’s former teammates that will attend in support, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, aren’t likely to be in Springfield to celebrate the first member of the Big Three being enshrined into basketball’s most prestigious sanctuary.
Of course, Garnett and Pierce are just waiting for their induction day, which will occur in 2019 and 2020, respectively, if they are first ballot. But there’s something that seems wrong with Allen celebrating this alone, without much support from those Celtics teammates who were part of that special era and that special team.
Allen has not likely helped foster any reconciliation with a recent autobiography that detailed his up and down tenure with the Celtics, but as these players grow older and the good memories outweigh the bad, they will be further associated with each other and eventually, if they don’t make peace, they will be more like Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon than teammates who made history.
“It was incredible because I didn’t know what it took to win a title and at that point, I thought I knew what it took,” Allen said Thursday. “We talked about wanting to win a championship, until you win one, you say wow I actually never knew it would have been that hard.
“When you’re on teams that are ok, you win but losing is not as hard or as bad because the pressure is not as great. In ’08, the pressure was immense because people thought we were going to win.”
Allen’s memories are fond. He bonded with those guys. Although they were different. Allen was wine and cheese, his game was beautiful and picturesque, like the fine art he admired.
And while he’d love to be welcomed back to the Celtics family again, this is his time and his moment. Regardless of the squabbles off the floor and perhaps being looked off for passes by a young Rajon Rondo, Allen was an all-time great. He averaged 20 more points in eight seasons before he arrived in Boston.
He finished his a career as a 40 percent 3-point shooter and his 2,973 3-pointers remains an NBA record, although that could be shattered soon by Steph Curry. Allen deserves respect and adulation for his talents. His Boston legacy can’t possibly be defined by one controversial decision.
“Some coaches used to call me ‘Oh (expletive),’” he said. Thursday. “If I ever ended up open on the floor, they used to say “Oh (expletive)! How did he get open? Often times when I would be running down the floor, the coach on the other team would be yelling at his guy ‘do not leave him! I don’t care what you do. Do not leave him!’ The guy that was guarding me was so paranoid, I changed the mold in his mind of how he was supposed to play defense.”
Allen became the Celtics’ third all-time 3-point leader in just five seasons. He shot 52.4 percent from the 3-point line in the 2008 Finals and he was the forefather of the current 3-point generation of players such as Curry, Klay Thompson and James Harden.
Allen is one of the reasons why of the top 55 3-point shooters of all time, 21 are active players. He helped spark a movement.
He deserves to come back home, receive his due credit and respect in Boston.
The exile should be over.
“My main focus was to prepare for my job every single day and don’t have any regrets,” Allen said. “When I get done, I could say I did everything I wanted to do. Now you have to decide if that’s good enough or how it compares and did I have an impact on the game? That’s people after the fact to decide when they saw me and my career. I know I gave my all.
“Everything that went on in Boston, people look at how I left but I look at how I lived while I was there,” he said. “That to me was the most important time in my life because I had never won and I was able to win. That’s probably the most important thing that I want people to always remember is the time that we spent together.
“Now I do understand, the angst that people have towards me because they loved it so much, because I was part of that community and I was part of everything they did and part of winning. It becomes such a business you have to decide when you have to fold up your tent.”