BOSTON (CBS) — Really, everyone here should be over the whole Ray Allen thing by now. He’s 37, he wanted out of Boston, and so he left. The Celtics used that departure to improve with new additions. Thanks for the memories — and they were great memories — and we’ll see you around.
But there was just something about Ray Allen on Tuesday night that didn’t sit quite right, and it ought to ensure that this drama won’t go away any time soon.
Of course, the moment that’s garnered the most attention was Ray’s attempt just prior to checking into the game to give a greeting to former teammate Kevin Garnett. While KG’s stone-faced refusal to acknowledge the tap on the shoulder has and will continue to be talked about, the real question is what in the world was Ray even doing on the Celtics bench?
Surely, in his 18 years in the NBA, he’s never seen an opponent make his way onto the other team’s bench before entering a game — not a real game, at least. Perhaps in an exhibition game, or in a Hall of Famer’s final night in his old city, or anything other than this situation, it might not be so strange. Yet there was Ray, in the first quarter of the first game of the season, personally greeting and hugging each and every member of the Celtics coaching staff before extending his olive branch to Garnett. If there had been a baby planted on the Boston bench, Ray Allen no doubt would have kissed its head for a photo op.
In a time where we can’t go 15 seconds without seeing or hearing a campaign advertisement, the whole thing just reeked of politicking.
After everything — the feuding with Rajon Rondo, feeling offended that Danny Ainge prioritized Garnett over him, leaving the only team for which he won a title for its bitter conference rival, taking some public verbal shots at the organization on the way out — he still thinks that a smile and some hugs will make him come across as the good guy. It’s reminiscent of Cal Naughton Jr. inviting Ricky Bobby to his wedding after Cal stole Ricky’s wife. If KG’s death stare could talk, it would say, “Do you realize the implications of your actions right now?”
And look, don’t get me wrong: Just because Ray isn’t the good guy doesn’t mean he’s automatically the bad guy. He wanted to leave a team, and he had every right to do just that, so it’s wildly unfair to paint him as some sort of treacherous traitor. It’s basketball, and Allen owed nothing to anybody. If he wanted to join Miami solely for something as silly as wanting to golf through the winter, then he’s earned that right. Still, Ray can’t do what he did from June through October and expect everything to be sunshine and rainbows when he invades an opposing bench on opening night.
Really — a player walking onto another team’s bench and tapping an opponent on the shoulder? That never happens, and it’s hard to say Garnett should have done anything other than he did. (OK, he probably could have done something more mature, but his decision made for much better theater.) After that frosty exchange, Allen was his typical Hall of Fame self, scoring 19 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field and 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. And in that sense, in playing an important role in his new team’s victory over his old team, Ray earned the last laugh.
But he didn’t leave the court without once again walking toward the Celtics’ bench. None of the players stuck around to talk with him, but head coach Doc Rivers was there for one more hug. Ray looked longingly at his former teammates, but they were already long gone, so he headed off on his own.
Ray then was interviewed live on TNT and said simply “That’s just KG” and “I love those guys.” Just more campaigning from the NBA player who seems swept up in the spirit of election season.
It’s not surprising. This is the same Ray Allen who said this week that he is “happy for [the Heat] that they won” the title last year … even though that win came at his own expense. He clearly wants to have his cake and eat it too, or in non-cliches that actually make sense, he wants everyone to love him, no matter what he’s done to make them feel otherwise. He wanted to leave the Celtics, but he wants things to still be hunky-dory when he sees his old team.
It just can’t work that way. We’ll see Ray again in late January. Perhaps by then he’ll understand.