Ray Allen returns to Boston on Sunday for the first time since he passed on an offer to stay with the Celtics to instead join their rivals, the Miami Heat. Allen won a championship during the five seasons he spent in Boston, but doesn't think he'll get emotional upon his return. He does, however, think he has a good idea of what type of reaction he'll get from Celtics fans.
"Everywhere you go when you're on the road you're going to get booed anyway," Allen said. "I expect that because I'm on the other team now."
Allen's final season in Boston was mired with a near-trade to the Memphis Grizzlies, injuries and the deterioration of his relationship with point guard Rajon Rondo. He also lost his starting job to unproven Avery Bradley. Still, the Celtics offered Allen a two-year, $12 million contract last offseason. Allen instead chose a deal paying about half of that with the Heat, who have eliminated the Celtics from the playoffs the past two seasons.
Allen's move disappointed and surprised Celtics fans, and they weren't alone. Coach Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett, who joined the Celtics the same year Allen did, also were confused by the decision.
Allen says the reason for his departure from Boston was "a collection of everything."
"We've been in multiple trade scenarios for the past two years," Allen said. "It's almost been a sense of disregard from my place wanting me in this situation and then coming into free agency.
"They prioritized who they wanted to sign and then they came to me matter of factly. Then you tell me I'm going to come off the bench and take less minutes."
Added Allen, "When you put me in the situation where you're not giving me any understanding or explanation of where the team is moving and what direction you're going in, then you're building around in another direction… At the end of the day whether it makes sense to you or not, you're not showing me that you really need me back or want me back."
Oklahoma City Thunder center Kendrick Perkins played with Allen in Boston from 2008-10 and fondly recalls the cheers he received when he returned to Boston for the first time after being traded. The difference: Allen wasn't traded. He took less money than what he was offered by Boston to join one of the franchise's biggest rivals. Allen and his family did a lot for Boston and New England in the community while he was there, but Celtics fans can be unforgiving.
"I never saw that coming," Perkins said about Allen's departure to Miami. "I don't know if it was pride. I don't know if it was an ego thing. And he took less money. That says a lot without saying much. I never thought I'd see something like that. It was crazy.
"He won a championship there. I think he deserves some kind of [cheers]. I don't think they will boo him. Well, I'm hoping not. I don't think he deserves to get booed for the decision that he made. A lot of people might not have agreed with the decision, but it is what it is."
"I hope Ray is treated like a king in his return," Rivers said. "We shouldn't focus on why he left or where he went. We should embrace and celebrate what he did for us when he was a Celtic. And he was a great Celtic."
The Celtics acquired Courtney Lee in a trade from the Houston Rockets last offseason hoping he could help replace Allen's dependable 3-point shooting. Boston also signed Jason Terry, who won a title with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. Both have been a disappointment so far in Boston. As for Allen, he is willingly coming off the bench for Miami, averaging 11.4 points while making 44.3 percent of his 3-pointers through 39 games.
Given that the Celtics are shooting just 33.5 percent behind the arc this season, ranking them 27th among the NBA's 30 teams – a considerable drop from a year ago when they ranked seventh – it can be easy to surmise that Allen is missed in Boston.
"They have plenty of players that are capable," Allen said without emotion.
Playing with LeBron James and the Heat, who own the Eastern Conference's best record, Allen has a chance to win his second championship. The Celtics, meanwhile, have lost six straight games to fall to 20-23.
The losing has made for an even colder winter in Boston for Celtics fans. Allen, who says he watches his former team when it's on TV, has enjoyed the chance to play golf in January in sunny Miami – along with the opportunity to play next to James. This season has afforded Allen an up-close look at the type of attention James and the Heat receive.
"I notice things are a little bit greater here with LeBron being on the team being arguably the best player in the league," Allen said. "He deals from a lot more from a fanfare perspective, and you see it from being in hotels, traveling. It was a little more subdued in other places I played."
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