You wouldn’t know it by watching him prep for games or seeing him in uniform or even by spying his work in the 2014 NBA Finals, but Miami Heat guard Ray Allen turns 39 in July. The NBA’s all-time leading three-point swisher is a free agent in July as well, and even when his team’s future seemed positive and cheery – like, when the squad was only down 2-1 in its Finals spin with the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday afternoon – the future Hall of Famer was already discussing the idea of retirement with the sort of verve that most 39-to-be athletes usually do.
“I guess everything [is factored into the decision],” he said Thursday before the Heat lost to the Spurs, 107-86, in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. “You get away from it, you sit down and get an opportunity to think about it. It depends on how my body feels. I love the condition I’ve been in over the last couple of years. It’s just a natural progression.”
Allen said he has enjoyed playing with considerably younger players, downplaying the generation gap.
“I don’t look at this as an age thing for me, it’s never been an age thing,” said Allen, who was averaging 9.6 points in the playoffs entering Game 4. “I always laugh because I see the birthdates of some of the younger guys. They’re born in the ’90s. In the ’90s! I was kicking it hard in the ’90s.”
Now, every athlete doesn’t mind kicking that can around toward the end of a long, long season.
It’s not so much that Ray has been at it, as a professional, since the summer of 1996. It’s that he’s been at it with the Heat this season since the first week of October. This interview took place before Game 4, which would be the 92nd game of Allen’s 2013-14 season. It’s not just because Ray is 38, or playing deep into the playoffs for the sixth time in his career. Every player wants an end to the grind, at this point in the year.
What we don’t want is an end to Ray Allen.
Ray has had his struggles in the postseason and in these Finals, especially defensively, but the idea of Allen walking away even at age 39 seems like a bit much to handle right now. His three-point percentage dipped a bit this year, but 30 out of 30 NBA teams (well, maybe not Brooklyn) would like a chance at adding the free agent to their rotation this summer, and even with the Heat’s potential free agent shakeup next month, Allen figures to have an open invitation to return to Miami for as long as he likes.
It’s just … how long will he like it for? Especially when you were “kicking it hard” around the same time Kawhi Leonard was attending his first day of kindergarten?
Ray’s preparation routine is legendary, he may have lost a step or three along the way, but there’s a reason San Antonio Spurs fans curse out loud whenever they see Allen line up for another open(ish) three-pointer. Even if Allen’s just-as-legendary make in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals had rimmed out, he still would be just as feared by San Antonio. And 28 other teams with functional brains.
Even after 18 seasons, 1,470 (and counting) regular and postseason games, and 3,357 (and counting) regular and postseason three-point makes, Ray Allen will not be scraping for a minimum contract this summer. The $3.2 million he’s making this year is around 1/6 of what he made a half-decade ago, but money is not the point for Allen – the man who famously negotiated his first maximum contract without an agent during the 1999 offseason.
The point, with the three-point record and two (and possibly counting …) NBA championship rings in hand, is whether or not Ray Allen wants to do this again, from October until possibly June. It’s understandable if he walks away, new ring or not, but we’re not exactly giddy at the thought of Sunday evening being the last time we get to see Ray Allen play an NBA game.
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