The Philadelphia 76ers waited for the Boston Celtics to lose their superstars, but all they have lost so far is Ray Allen. Of course, Sixers fans like myself still have to fear the Celtics with Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo back, and with Paul Pierce likely to join them. But Boston is still fixated on who it lost, especially since Ray Allen left to go to the arch-rival Miami Heat for less money on July 6.
LeBron James also left his longtime team to go to Miami for less money two years ago. Because of that - among other Decisions - James instantly became public enemy No. 1 in Cleveland after leaving the Cavaliers. Likewise, Allen may become a James-like villain in Boston as well, although the faithful have both more and fewer reasons to hate him like Cleveland hated James.
The Celtics have more reason to be bitter at Allen because he joined a hated rival. On the other hand, the Cavaliers and Heat didn't have a rivalry before James went to Miami, so all of Cleveland's hatred went towards its former king. But the Celtics and Heat just went through a brutal seven-game Eastern Conference final that Miami ultimately rallied in.
It was one thing for the Heat to erase a 3-2 deficit at the Celtics' expense and then win it all. But for Allen, joining the team that gave Boston such bitter heartbreak was the worst way he could have left the Celtics. He didn't do it in a controversial TV special, yet joining an arch-rival, and the top team in the way of one last Celtics championship, is a decision Allen may never recover from in Boston.
But on the other hand, the Celtics and their fans cannot be more bitter than the Cavaliers because Boston has a lot more to go on. Cleveland put all of its hopes on James for years, then had nothing left when he took his talents to Miami. That is the real reason why his decision hurt so hard, because it closed the Cavaliers' window of opportunity for a championship and relevancy - for now.
Yet the Celtics will always be a relevant franchise that can replenish itself and keep the other stars on its roster. Even before Allen left, Boston made far bigger moves in resigning Garnett and bringing Jason Terry over from the Dallas Mavericks. With Terry set to fill in for Allen and with Garnett, Rondo and Pierce sticking around a while longer, the Celtics are not taking a significant step back.
As such, Boston should find it easier to get over Allen's so-called betrayal, as it still stands to be a top contender without him. However, it is harder to get over Allen at the same time, because he made the Heat even harder to beat for the next three years no matter what. At the least, this isn't as clear cut as James' infamous departure was in terms of obvious backlash.
If he makes a difference in giving the Heat one, two or even three more titles while the Celtics can't get one last ring, then Boston will have reason to treat Allen as their LeBron. Yet if the Celtics can still beat him and the Heat somehow, it will be all the revenge that they need - which should make it easier to better remember Allen over time.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan - who has become quite familar with the Celtics in that time.
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