Look, I love Ray Allen. I really do. He might be the nicest, most personable professional baller I’ve ever had the pleasure of talking to. He’s a good guy, a Hall-of-Famer, and one of reasons the Celtics added Banner #17 to the rafters. We couldn’t have done it without him. But trust me: Banner #18 won’t be raised until he’s gone. The rumor mill has been fired up and churning for weeks, and the debate rages on like the only overplayed Clash song in radio: Should Ray stay or should he go? Do the C’s remain the franchise who respects its loyal players by repaying them with that same loyalty, even if that means keeping them on the team long past their usefulness? Or do they break from tradition (a word that summarizes the storied history of this, the greatest franchise in sports ever), and try something new?
Back in the days of Bird, Parish and McHale, I don’t remember any rumors of the C’s thinking about doing the unthinkable and shipping out McHale or the Chief so the team could rebuild on the fly or inject some youth for the future, all while maintaining their dominance. There was always that belief they’d rebuild through the draft or draft-day trades, as they had almost always done. They’d be able to luck into someone amazing: it’s was the Celtic way. And it seemed to be keeping true to form, as the C’s were able to trade Gerald Henderson in 1984 and lucked into high draft pick in 1986: Len Bias. We know how that turned out. By the time Reggie Lewis came along as the next young savior to bolster the now-aging original Big 3, it was obvious to all that the Celtics triumvirate of Hall-of-Famers were in the twilight of their incredible careers. When Reggie died, the bottom fell out, and the tumble to basketball irrelevance began. It lasted 14 years. I don’t want that to happen again.
Does that mean I don’t have any faith in Rondo, Perk, Baby or any of the other young guys on the team right now? Of course not. I think Rondo will someday be regarded as the modern day Bob Cousy around here. But we were saying such lofty things about Len Bias too, and he never played a game for the Celtics. The fanbase is rabid, loyal and optimistic to a fault: We all thought Al Jefferson was going to be the next dominant big man in the NBA wearing Celtic Green, and there were plenty of people who thought trading him for KG was a mistake at the time. Looking back, 99 out of a hundred of us fans would pull the trigger. But we were scared, and loved Al-Jeff. But now that we see him in Timberwolf Blue, our opinions of his potential have come back to earth. He’s no longer ours to obsess over, and we can look at him rationally.
That’s what we have to do with Ray. Take him out of the Celtic uniform and look at the player objectively.
He’s old and getting older. His numbers and percentages are down. He’s a hefty and desirable expiring contract. He’s at best average defensively, and while he still remains one of the best shooters in the game, he won’t stay that way for long. His numbers (along with Pierce and KG and Sheed) aren’t going to get markedly better. He is what he is, until he eventually gets hurt, which will assuredly happen unless Doc Rivers stops playing him an insane amount of minutes.
While I think the Celtics stand a puncher’s chance at making the Finals this year as presently assembled, they are by no means a lock of any sort past making the playoffs. That’s right – I think they might not make it out of the first round. There are too many question marks to just stand pat with the current hand the C’s have been dealt, and holding on to them (and letting them get a year older, and more injury-prone) doesn’t make any sense: So why not fold this hand and roll the dice? (I’m not good at gambling, so I apologize for that analogy.)
Look, let’s try this: It’s like trading in a car: Yeah, she’s running fine, there might be a little bit of rust on her, but she’s performing admirably and you have a lot of good memories cruising with her and don’t want to let her go. But do you want to ride her until the wheels come off and get left with nothing to get to work with? Or do you want to tearfully trade in your baby while she still has some value and maybe get something that can keep the good times rolling for quite some time?
Ray Allen’s not going to get any better than he is now. Even if Doc pulls him from the lineup and sits him until March, there is no guarantee his legs will be fresh in the playoffs. He’s in a slump, yes. But this slump might never get better. It’s equal to that car in the convoluted metaphor above developing a rattle coming from under the hood. Yeah, it may just be an annoyance right now, but’s it’s probably going to keep getting worse unless you do something about it. With Pierce being out and KG at less than 100%, the Celtics can’t afford to ignore this and keep playing Ray 40+ minutes a game while hoping the rattles magically work themselves out. That’s a recipe for being left stranded at the most inopportune time. The C’s need to trade Ray in for a lesser known commodity with more tread left on its tires. At least we know whatever we get, whether it be Kirk Hinrich (no thanks), Kevin Martin (YES!!!), or somebody else, it’ll be able to run. Maybe not as good, but at least twice as long. Dependability is worth more than talent here, we’ve got enough talent left with KG and PP. Ray’s got 2 years left in him tops, and they won’t be “superstar” level years. They most likely won’t even be as a starter, if his next team wants to get the most out of him. While it’s great to have Ray around, It’s not worth the risk. To finally kill this half-baked car analogy once in for all: I’d much rather have a shiny new thing to take out for a spin than have a broken-down classic antique rusting out on my lawn.