The marriage between the Boston Celtics and Ray Allen has lasted five eventful seasons. There have been a staggering number of highlights throughout their run together, but like any relationship that lasts that long, the duo have had their fair share of conflicts. The Celtics [Danny Ainge] have looked around a little too much at times around the league for potential possibilities, causing some hurt feelings.
Allen himself is five years older from when the romance started, has reportedly been a bit too “demanding” at times (not enjoying a demotion to the bench) and has not always got along with everyone in the Celtics’ family (Rajon Rondo).
Thanks to some of these issues and a variety of other factors, most people “in the know” in the basketball world acknowledge both sides are probably ready to move on this summer and end the relationship for seemingly greener pastures. Miami appears to be the favorite to land Ray, at this juncture according to multiple reports.
I’m not ready to give up on this relationship however. Instead, I’m ready to serve as a mediator. Ultimately, when the dust settles, both sides can still be good for each other and should be able to give each other what they want to make this relationship work for at least another year or two. Undoubtedly, the circumstances have changed since the flame started five years ago, but both parties can still help each other get what they want: money and a chance at a championship.
The issues I described above between the couple should not be deal-breakers. Fences can hopefully be mended, apologies can be made and unless there is more to the story than what’s out there now (a distinct possibility) I think both sides can make it work. Thus, I present you the case on why Boston should want to keep Ray Allen…and why he may want to stay.
Why Boston Should Keep Ray
Quick Celtics fans, name the best season Allen has had shooting in a C’s uniform from downtown. Now tell me when was the best season Allen has had shooting from three-point range in his entire storied career. Got you stumped on that last one? That’s because it was a trick question! The answer is the abbrieviated 2011-12 regular season for both.
You wouldn’t know it the way some C’s fans talk about Ray now, but Allen shot an incredible 45.3 percent from 3-point range last year. 45.3 percent! That was the fifth best mark in the entire NBA.
Allen clearly came back down to earth in the postseason where he averaged 39.5% shooting from the field, and 30.4% shooting from downtown, leaving a bad taste in the mouth of most observers undoubtedly, but guess what? Those are the numbers you have to expect when someone is playing on an ankle that needed surgery for two-plus months. The Celtics shouldn’t penalize him for that in evaluating his performance, instead they should be appreciative of the fact he gutted it out for the C’s in their deep run to the Eastern Conference finals.
There’s no denying Allen has undoubtedly declined in some aspects of his game. His defense is questionable at best. He can’t create his own shot much anymore. However, when healthy, the man can still shoot, better than almost anyone else in this league still. Given the fact, the Celtics were a bottom-5 offensive team in the league last year, I don’t see how saying goodbye to Allen helps that, which brings us to our next point.
The Celtics had plenty of big problems last year before the All-Star break, but Allen was not one of them. Once Doc Rivers shifted Kevin Garnett to center after the All-Star break, the C’s went 6-2 with Allen in the starting lineup, before he hurt his ankle on March 12th in Los Angeles. It wasn’t just Avery Bradley who was playing well over those last three months of the regular season. Everyone was playing better. Before he got hurt, Allen was still a major contributor. He could still be that guy coming off the bench for Boston next season.
A Lack Of Potential Alternatives
It’s time to move on for Boston, say many observers on Allen. Bradley played incredible last year (when healthy) and the team needs to get younger. Fair enough I say. Now, go find me someone who can be had at Ray Allen’s price that would be an adequate replacement. Also do this, knowing the Celtics would just have 5 million dollars to spend (the MLE) in all likelihood since that cap room we’ve heard about will likely be spent on bringing by Garnett and other key C’s free agents for next season, something Ainge openly acknowledged in an interview with WEEI last week.
Guys like O.J. Mayo, Lou Williams, and Carlos Delfino aren’t coming here for 5 million dollars as a starting salary. Other attractive names like Courtney Lee are restricted free agents that have teams which will likely match any reasonable offer.
Spending that five million on Allen’s replacement also means the C’s don’t spend that money on a big man, which I would argue is a much bigger need for Boston in the interim.
There are alternatives of course to signing someone. Boston could do a sign-and-trade conceivably for a guy like Jamal Crawford, a 31-year-old coming off one of the worst shooting seasons of his career who also plays less defense than Allen.
Boston could turn over the car keys to Mickael Pietrus, E’Twaun Moore, and a potential 2012 draft pick or two. This is a very possible option, but wouldn’t you rather have Allen coming off the bench over these guys as your primary option? I would.
The Celtics have bird rights on Allen so they can spend as much on him as they want. He won’t cost nearly as much as his $10 million dollar salary from last season, so Ainge can pay him under a potential one or two-year deal for exactly what the market dictates if he wants. That market may not be very pricey, especially if Allen wants to play for a contender.
Why Allen Should Want to Return to Boston
Lack of Money/Opportunity From Contenders
We’ve heard about all kinds of suitors so far for the shooting guard from around the league. Miami, Chicago, New York, LA Clippers….they all want Ray! And their interest should be no surprise, due to his shooting numbers. Can any of them afford to give Ray more money than the C’s though? Probably not. Let’s run through their situations quickly.
Miami – As Brian Windhorst described earlier this week, Miami is already in over the salary cap for next season, so it’s likely the very most they can pay Allen (barring an sign-and-trade) is $3 million per year. That’s a 70 percent pay cut for Ray, despite perhaps knowing going to Miami is his best chance at winning a title. If Mike Miller is gone, Ray could be a nice fit, but otherwise, with Dwayne Wade and Mario Chalmers entrenched down there, Ray would be coming off bench.
New York – With J.R. Smith likely to return and plenty of their own players to sign, New York, like Miami could probably only offer Ray $3 million a season, and would likely have him come off their bench.
Chicago – Same deal as Miami, as they are over the cap. This is sounding familiar. Plus, they are stuck with Richard Hamilton and have Kyle Korver coming off the bench. They need offense, but not someone with Allen’s limited skillset.
LA Clippers – Finally, a “contender” with a little money to spend. Not as much as you might think though, as they will be close to the salary cap mark at $58 million depending on what they decide to do with Mo Williams (who has $8.5 million player option). With Nick Young, Randy Foye as their own free agents along with Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe already in place, not sure what problem Allen solves for them. Offense isn’t an issue in LA.
Atlanta- They have 6 players under contract and are over the cap already. A lot of holes to fill with minimal money. Barring a trade, Allen is doubtful to be on the radar.
I could keep going through teams here, but I think you get the idea. Most contenders don’t have significant cap room, and the ones that do are unlikely to spend it on Ray. The sharpshooting guard should expect to get no more than 3-5 million dollars from any contender, and a spot coming off the bench. That’s probably the exact same thing he could get in Boston, maybe even a little more if Danny is feeling generous.
Why Fences Might Not Be Mended
All of the situations above come with a caveat for Allen, who turns 37 next month. The Celtics may be looking to upgrade at the position via a sign-and-trade. There also may be a bigger rift behind the scenes with Rondo than we thought. However, the way Danny and Doc are talking about Allen right now, you wouldn’t guess that. (Via CSNNE.com)
“You’ll hear that [Miami is interested in Ray] and probably 10 other teams,” Rivers said Tuesday. “If they don’t have interest in him, then they’re crazy. But we have interest, too.”
“Ray is going to do what he should do, actually, ” Rivers said. “Is look around and see (what’s available). We’ll be involved as well.”
My guess is the biggest battle here in keeping these two together will be Boston trying to appease Allen. The future Hall-of-Famer has probably had his ego wounded while he was here over the past couple years. He didn’t like to be dangled at the trade deadline every year as trade bait. He probably didn’t appreciate the demotion to the bench, which was beyond his control with Bradley playing so well with the starters. He might be butting heads with Rondo behind the scenes and he might be hesitant to come off the bench for an organization that hasn’t shown him the most appreciation (you could argue) in recent years. It may be more than a money decision in which Allen decides to move on from Boston and if it is, I respect that.
In my opinion though, those reasons I just described aren’t reason enough for Ray to leave flat out. Boston has their ace in the hole with Rivers in trying to woo Ray back. Allen could still play 30 minutes for this team off the bench next year and be very successful at it with a far deeper bench surrounding him. Would Ainge promise not to trade Ray if he came back? Probably not, but it’s a reasonable request if you’re Allen at this point.
The fact of the matter is, if both sides want this to happen, they can make it work. Boston has the money to pay Ray, and if Ray wants to play, get paid fairly, and win he could do far worse than staying in this relationship. As long as Allen doesn’t demand more than two years (even that might be too much) Danny Ainge should bring him back. I’ll let Allen explain why in his remarks after Game 7.
Q. Ray, do you think with the core perhaps back and some reinforcements and some changes, you guys could make another run next year?
ALLEN: “I think a lot of people forget how we started the season. It was so helter skelter trying to put together a team. We went through a lot of adversity this year, losing Wilcox and losing Jeff Green. Under the circumstances, you know, we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished. By no means do we think that it was a fluke or that our young guys, they played hard for us. Kevin, I don’t know what Kevin’s situation is. There’s still a lot of basketball left in my legs. I know that for sure. So it’s hard to say what can happen, what may happen. But four of us know how to play basketball. We know how to win games.”
They know how to win games, Danny. If this relationship is not beyond repair, Ray should return and help give them one more chance to make a run. Bringing back Allen may be a long shot at this point, but his return may help Boston put their best foot forward heading into next year.