Dad has spoken up, so it’s probably best that we listen. Danny Ainge has uncrossed his khakis and furrowed his brow and at this point he’s just about to tell the 2007-08 Boston Celtics that he’s not exactly mad at the crew for refusing to invite Ray Allen to an unofficial celebration of the team’s 2008 NBA title, but that he’s disappointed in them.
Ex-C’s point man Rajon Rondo relayed the mess in its current state recently, telling The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears that a cast of former Celtics teammates has no intention on extending an invitation to Allen due to lingering resentment over the former Celtic’s decision to join the Miami Heat in 2012, seemingly directly after the Heat had topped Allen, Rondo and the rest of the Celtics in the Eastern finals.
Speaking on Wednesday and again on Thursday to local media, Ainge (the man who dealt for both Rondo and Allen, along with Kevin Garnett, securing every member of the championship team save Paul Pierce) pointed out that he wasn’t exactly brimming with pride at word of his ex-players’ ongoing, apparently shared enmity toward the retired Allen.
“Ray not getting invited to a reunion of that team would be like me celebrating the 1986 title without Kevin McHale. It seems silly,” the Celtics president of basketball operations said yesterday. “We got where we got because of Ray. He was an important part of that team’s success.
“You just hope that time heals all wounds.”
Well, time hasn’t exactly been doing a bang-up job of wounding all heels of late, so while we should all take Ainge’s approach in hoping for a peaceful end to this “silly” silly (that word shouldn’t be in quotation marks) bit of intrigue, nobody is expecting any significant results from the good folks at “time” any, uh, time soon.
Especially when NBA teams, of late at least, seem to be taking cues from the Doomsday Clock these days. Franchises tend to celebrate historical achievements a little early, as there are more jerseys, mementos and tickets to sell that way, which is why most official return engagements for the celebration of championships past often take place on the first year or months before the actual anniversary of the title win.
For the Celtics, this would mean blowing up the balloons and the internet in 2017, as opposed to 2018, for the team’s 20th anniversary celebration of the 2007-08 champs.
That is to say: the clock is ticking. And it’s probably a major annoyance for a basketball team president that is more focused on how his club, currently situated at No. 2 in the East with just 10 games to play in the season, is preparing for the postseason.
Ainge, in talking with the Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy on Wednesday, can’t fully conceive of why 2011-12-era on-court tumult and the expected-yet-certainly-shocking 2012 departure of Allen would ring so loudly lo, these many years later:
“I know there was a bit of a rift on the team, but I don’t know to what extent, even now, that it’s so bad Ray wouldn’t be invited to a 2008 reunion,” Ainge said.
Then again, Danny Ainge wasn’t ever on a team like the 2007-08 Boston Celtics. Few people, including the most dogged of past NBA champions, have ever had a part on any team that even remotely resembles that crew. Ainge, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Bill Walton, Dennis Johnson and other Celtics on the 1986 championship team may have given each other the business (more than most champs, we’d submit), but the 2008 Celtics were at times made of some frighteningly stern stuff.
This is why the 2007-08 champs, even though the team’s heft only extended through one title (just ahead of near-misses in the 2010 Finals and the 2012 Eastern Conference finals), needs to have its story sung.
Dad would like it if the kids table could get it all together while he works on the damn turkey:
“I was surprised,” Ainge said during his weekly interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich on Thursday. “Ray was such a big part of that, it would defeat the purpose. He was a huge, huge part of that championship run.”
“It’s a business and I think there were a lot of contributing factors. I don’t hold that against Ray,” he said, unwilling to go into the many different factors.
“I think I know; I lived that with him and went through that,” Ainge said. “I think there were a lot of contributing factors and not just one thing. It was a difficult decision for Ray and I wish he hadn’t done it. But he did. … I’m a fan of Ray and grateful for what he brought to the Boston Celtics. He’s a great guy.”
Doc Rivers, the Los Angeles Clippers coach who worked with Ainge and his star players in bringing Boston its first NBA title since 1986 to the city, appears equally dismayed. From a feature from the Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn:
“Me and Ray talk a lot now,” Rivers said. “Everybody after the whole Miami thing, it took a while. But I even told our guys, all of them, I think they’re still not talking [to Allen], I love the pride part of it, but we won a title together and I just hope somehow we can kind of figure that one out.
“I really believe that’s partly on me to try to do it. I’ve been trying, and I can tell you I’ve been unsuccessful. I even tried recently. I am hoping.
“They won a title together, and they’re going to have an anniversary. We’ve got to get that one right. That’s on me and probably Danny.
“Ray was a great Celtic and his departure wasn’t great, but that’s fine. That’s the departure. His stay was great and we’ve got to remember that.”
We do have to remember that about Ray Allen, but it can be tough. NBA players can have elephant’s memories.
Actual humans, though, should recognize their human memories. Prior to acting all human-like as a result.
If you’d like to credit Rajon Rondo for his ongoing callousness in response to what he saw as callousness from Ray Allen in 2012, that’s fair. Allen took less money to join the Miami Heat that summer, but he also joined the Miami Heat that summer, turning down a contract offer from Boston to join the new champs as a sixth man just weeks after Miami downed the C’s in the seventh game of the 2012 Eastern finals.
You don’t have to be an NBA player to think, using some of Kevin Garnett’s language, that the move on Ray Allen’s part was somewhat messed up. It’s why KG appears to consider Allen persona non-grata, to the point of refusing an exchange with him prior to a game just over four years ago – a very normal thing that guys in their mid-to-late 30s do a lot:
It’s an NBA move. The problem here is that Kevin Garnett is not in the NBA anymore. Neither is Ray Allen, who officially retired earlier this season. Paul Pierce already committed to 2016-17 acting as his final season as an active player, and there is hardly any certainty that Rajon Rondo (a player that is about to be chased out of his fourth locker room in three years) will have an NBA job in 2017-18.
One would think, given the disruptive stretch it would take to consider Allen, Garnett, Pierce and even the 31-year old Rondo as “NBA players” come this autumn, the crew would take their cues to act like reasonable adults.
Because it’s not as if Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen even have to stand next to each other at the celebration’s photo shoot, or whatever function that followed. You’re not going to want anything to do with Ray Allen in that setting anyway, because the guy won’t stop talking about the calorie count in the sugar-laden granola mix sitting in that Styrofoam bowl over there, and he won’t shut up about how the scallops that those servers brought around are “just swimming in butter.”
Rajon Rondo, understandably, thinks that sort of unease is best left for Danny Ainge and the Celtics to put together. Scot Pollard, a fringe member of that title team that has already rolled his eyes at Rondo via Twitter, thinks that there is another motivation in play, here:
— SiriusXM NBA Radio (@SiriusXMNBA) March 22, 2017
It makes sense. It isn’t as if life with the deadening Chicago Bulls are doing much for Rondo’s sense of encouragement and competitive balance these days.
“I mean,” Rondo explained to The Undefeated, “Ray left. He left to the enemy.”
I guess. We all get it, Rajon Rondo, now that we’re once again calling sports teams (or Gary’s Olde Town Tavern, or a rival gang of Connect Four aficionados, or scribes at another website) “the enemy.”
Do it with your little boys show: no Ray allowed. Keep it nice and nasty. When it comes time for the official celebration, though, as constructed and paid for by the Boston Celtics? Let’s try to bring the tact while smilin’ mindful of the fact that it really isn’t about Rajon Rondo and his teammates, and more about the thousands in attendance and thousands around the world that met their favorite basketball team all the way back in 2007.
Beyond that? Let’s, on record, have a 12-deep discussion (so as to include Mr. Pollard, this time) about loyalty, edge and truth in sports. Let’s talk about why divides like this, even if the troubles between Allen and his teammates didn’t begin with Ray Allen’s move to Miami, still hurt so much to certain players.
That talk, even if it doesn’t bring much by way of clarity, would be worthwhile.
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