When midnight ushered in July 1, 2009, the Big Three was in Detroit.
They’d flown there, in hot pursuit of Rasheed Wallace, attempting to lure Sheed via free agency. But why does that matter now? Why is that in any way relevant? Sheed’s probably retiring, the Big Three may have played their last game together, and that meeting with Sheed was more than a year ago. So why am I bringing it up?
Because the Celtics are taking a markedly less aggressive approach with Ray Allen. Yeah, Doc Rivers called him at 12:01, but it was just a phone call. There was no meeting planned at Ray’s house, no lovefest showered upon him, nobody sitting on his front lawn to tell him how much the Celtics need him. The C’s put the full-court press on Sheed last summer, but are now sitting in a 2-3 zone with Ray.
Depending on what source you listen to, the Celtics are either in daily talks with Ray or hardly communicating with him at all. Gary Washburn wrote, “Ainge said he has had daily conversations with Allen, who has not been linked to any other club.” The Boston Herald reports that the Celtics didn’t even speak to Ray yesterday. Not even once. Not even a phone call. “The club last spoke with Ray Allen’s people Saturday,” Steve Bulpett wrote, “and the veteran guard still seems to be checking out the market.” My question: Even if Washburn’s report is true and Ainge has spoken to Ray each day, why aren’t the Celtics hounding Ray every second? Why are they sitting around while Ray checks out the market? If Sheed’s worth flying the Big Three in at midnight, isn’t Ray worth at least that?
If I were the Boston Celtics, I would have sent the big guns to bring Ray back. I would have had Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett outside Ray’s house, sitting on hands and knees, begging Ray to return. Because, really, what options do the Celtics have if Ray plays somewhere else next season?
There was a time when you could have argued that the Celtics should have started the rebuilding process this offseason. That they should have renounced Pierce and Allen’s free agent rights and let them walk. That the Big Three era had run its course and fallen minutes short in its one, last, brutal hurrah. But then the Celtics re-signed Pierce, and did it for four years. All of a sudden, hopes of cap space were gone. Thoughts of getting younger got tossed out the window the day the Celtics agreed on four years and $61 million for Pierce.
And so it is that re-signing Ray Allen has become an absolute necessity. Because of Allen’s Bird rights, the Celtics are capable of signing Allen to a contract that exceeds the salary cap. If he doesn’t sign, the Celtics won’t be able to use that money on any other free agent. Quite frankly, that money will be spent on Ray Allen or it won’t be spent at all. And who would you rather have: Ray Allen or an empty roster spot?
Did the Celtics make the wrong choice by extending Pierce’s contract and thus foregoing whatever slim chance of rebuilding they had? Only time will tell whether the Celtics will still be contenders, so I don’t know. Anybody who says they do know is lying. As old as the Celtics looked for most of last year, they came within 360 seconds of winning an NBA championship. To think their window is definitely closed is crazy, but to insist that it’s still wide open would be just as insane. There is the chance that the Big Three’s rein as contenders has already passed, that age will prove too much to overcome. There is also the possibility the Celtics could win it all next season.
Regardless of how open their championship window is, the Boston Celtics committed to giving the Big Three era one last try — or two or three last tries — when Doc Rivers returned and Paul Pierce re-signed. So I recommend they get their asses over to Ray Allen’s home, wherever it may be. Stop playing the waiting game, stop letting Ray Allen test the market. It’s time to make him understand how wanted he is in Boston. It’s time to make him aware of his importance to next year’s title run. It’s time to let him know that the Boston Celtics have left themselves with no other option.