Posts tagged: Ray Allen
(This column was fueled by a piece Adrian Wojnarowski wrote yesterday about Kevin Garnett’s unselfishness during this lockout. It’s a great read, so go read it.)
Let Kevin Garnett be unselfish. Let him rally his colleagues and urge them not to cave into the league’s demands, even though Garnett personally would benefit if the players caved. Let him rally the union in solidarity and lead his peers into a better deal, even if that means missing games. Let him care more about the NBA’s future than his own self-interest. Let him risk $21.2 million so Avery Bradley, JaJuan Johnson and Jimmer Fredette can receive fair contracts a few years from now. Let Garnett do all that, and respect him for it.
But I’m not joining him. I want the lockout to end and I wanted it to end three months ago. Not just for me, for NBA fans everywhere, for the success of my website, for Tuesday nights when I’d rather not watch baseball, for mornings I would prefer not to view a top ten plays filled with hockey saves and only hockey saves, or for the hoards of NBA employees whose jobs have been slashed because millionaires and billionaires won’t settle on a labor deal. I certainly want the lockout to end for all the previous reasons. But I also want the lockout to end for the Boston Celtics.
One last chance. That’s been a repeating chorus for years now, but this year, that chorus makes more sense than ever. The Celtics looked older than ever while losing to the Miami Heat. Garnett and Ray Allen have one year left on their contracts. The Celtics have only three players signed beyond the upcoming season. Danny Ainge will have many more reasons to blow up the Big Three nucleus after this year than he will have to keep the nucleus together for 2012 and beyond.
All of which means we might have just one more year to watch Ray Allen spot up on the perimeter, his legs bent, ready to spring from the floor, his eyes set on the rim, his body squared perfectly toward his target, the flawless cock of his wrist and the follow through covered in gold and the resulting swish. We might have just one more year to watch Rajon Rondo run the pick-and-roll with Garnett, to see Garnett knowingly slip the pick, bee-line for the rim and rise to catch Rondo’s pass, floating down from the rafters so Garnett can secure it and slam it into the hoop. Or to watch Garnett pound his chest and mutter a stream of obscenities directed to nobody and everybody all at once, to watch his eyes that could stare a hole straight through the Great Wall of China, to see his focus and determination and know he wants to win more than many people want anything at all. Or to watch Garnett and Paul Pierce’s joint press conferences, the way they play off each other like they were best friends since childhood. Or to watch Allen interviewed at his locker, always impeccably dressed, always willing to answer questions longer than anyone else, as classy as a top-notch country club. Or to see the C’s in the playoffs, bloody and battered, fighting desperately to outlast a younger, fresher team, and knowing, win or lose, this is a Celtics team to have pride in.
A year from now, the Celtics organization could be almost anywhere. Rebuilding around Rajon Rondo with young players and draft picks. Hoping Jeff Green pans out. Following Dwight Howard to the NBA Finals. Trying to relive the glory days after resigning Garnett and Allen to smaller contracts. The Celtics’ future is cloudier and less predictable than a lightning storm.
Yet Wyc Grousbeck is reportedly one of the hard-line owners willing to risk this entire season. Garnett is clamoring for players to hold out until they get the right deal. Pierce is joining Garnett at the meetings and likely echoing his sentiments. I get why they’re doing it — Grousbeck wants more money, Garnett and Pierce want to ensure the fair treatment of NBA players for years to come.
But if Garnett isn’t going to be selfish, I will. I want this lockout to end. For the Boston Celtics, and yes, of course, for me.
A month to play, and the Red Sox led the Rays by nine games. The Sox couldn’t lose.
Three games to play, headed to Baltimore for a three-game set while the Rays prepared for the Yanks, still ahead by a game. The Sox couldn’t lose.
Tampa down seven runs in the season’s final game heading into the eighth inning, the Sox ahead by one run in a rain delay during the seventh. The Sox couldn’t lose.
Tampa came back, tied the game 7-7 on a home run while down to their last strike, but at least the Sox were still ahead by one, Papelbon on the mound. The Sox could lose, but it was still improbable.
Papelbon worked Baltimore to their last strike, with some Oriole named Nolan Reimold — he of the .246 batting average and warning track power — at the plate. Meanwhile, in Florida, the Rays were still tied with the Yankees in extra innings. Once again, the Sox couldn’t lose.
But they did.
Is there a Celtics equivalent to blowing a nine-game lead in the season’s final month, coughing up a one-game lead during a three-game series against the Baltimore friggin’ Orioles, giving away a ninth-inning lead in a must-win game, a pack of gutless, more-than-well-compensated players playing each game with the intensity of a grandmother knitting a yarn scarf, and meanwhile, Tampa Bay comes back from seven runs down and wins on a walkoff home run in the twelfth?
Probably not, mostly because eight teams make the playoffs in the NBA, but let me try. For the purposes of this exercise, I am throwing out all limitations, such as a salary cap or even common sense.
The Celtics spend the offseason bulking up their roster with big names. They sign Jeff Green (let’s call him Carl Crawford) and Dwight Howard (let’s call him Adrian Gonzalez), entering the season with a Rondo-Allen-Pierce-Garnett-Howard-Green top six that everyone instantly hails “the best lineup ever.”
And then the Celtics start the season 1-7. Jeff “Carl Crawford” Green struggles in his new role and WEEI callers compare him to The Tin Man from Wizard of Oz — no heart. Howard is dominant as usual, at least defensively, but the mainstays — the Fantastic Four — struggle to regain their past magic. It’s as if they’re getting old or something. Everyone begins to jump off the bandwagon… just in time for the Celtics to start playing like the best team in basketball.
For the next three quarters of the season, the Celtics become who we thought they were. Howard swats shots into the fifteenth row. Garnett screams gutturally after every win. Rondo handles the passing, Pierce and Allen handle the scoring, and, well Jeff Green is still doing his best impersonation of The Tin Man. The Celtics enter the final month of the season (12 games remaining) ahead by seven games for the eighth and final playoff spot (remember, this is just an excercise, so pretend they could play like the best team in basketball for three-quarters of the season and still be that close to missing the playoffs).
Suddenly, everything goes wrong. Rondo starts throwing passes into Mark Wahlberg’s courtside seat. Allen gets hurt. Pierce doesn’t seem like he cares very much. Howard smiles too often. Garnett, who we’ll now call Dustin Pedroia, is the only player who acts like he still gives a damn. The ship is sinking and Jeff Green is still coming off the bench, a painful reminder of everything that wasn’t supposed to go wrong. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia 76ers won’t lose a goddamn game and Boston’s seven-game lead isn’t dwindling — it’s being thrown off the Empire State Building and free-falling until it reaches a painful death.
The Celtics are still tied going into the season’s last day. Their opponent is the Minnesota Timberwolves. The 76ers are playing the Lakers, but the Lakers have clinched the West’s top seed and will rest their biggest assholes… err, I mean their biggest stars. Boston trades for Travis “Bruce Chen” Outlaw in case they need some help in a possible one-game playoff.
But it doesn’t look like they’ll need Outlaw. The Lakers jump to a 25-point lead against Philly and maintain it into the fourth-quarter. The Celtics, meanwhile, build a five-point lead against the Wolves. Even though it’s not a huge lead, they seem to have control of the game.
And then hell has its first snowstorm. Andre Iguodala hits two four-point plays. Lou Williams cannot miss. Thaddeus Young dunks on Luke Walton’s head (remember, the Lakers are playing their scrubs). When Iggy scores five points in less than twenty seconds, the 76ers are down only three points with ten seconds to play.
Meanwhile, Boston’s lead is maintaining. But they are missing opportunities to put the game away — or, as my fifth-grade baseball coach used to say, to close the damn door. Garnett misses some bunnies. Howard slams a dunk into the back rim. Rondo misses free throws (surprise, surprise). Pierce’s month-long fog still hasn’t lifted. And Green sits on the bench, where he will stay unless a starter fouls out. With twenty-five seconds left, Boston’s lead is still four. No need for a fire alarm yet.
But the 76ers pull a miracle from their behinds. The Lakers miss two free throws that would have sealed the game (for some reason, we’ll call it “trying to sabotage another team’s season”, Steve Blake shoot both free throws with a blindfold on) and Philly gets one more chance to tie. Iguodala is not a fan of the three-point arc, but he drains one at the buzzer, sending Philly fans into a seizure of celebration.
Then the Celtics surrender a bucket to Ricky Rubio, who scores approximately one bucket every ten games. He’s fouled, too, by Ray Allen, and it’s Allen’s sixth. That means The Tin Man enters the game. Celtics fans everywhere hold their breath. Rubio cans the free throw, cutting the Celtics lead to one with nine seconds left. Michael Beasley steals the ensuing inbounds pass. As time runs out on the clock, he drills a three-pointer while Jeff Green, who was supposed to guard Beasley, saunters after him like a high school bully who enjoys being late to class.
Before the Red Sox can even say “what the fuck just happened?”, Iguodala dunks home a Lou Williams miss as time expires to send Philly into the playoffs. Dwight Howard says something about how “it wasn’t God’s plan” for the Celtics to make the playoffs this season, and millions of viewers think to themselves, “yeah, I imagine God spends most of his time worrying about who gets the 8th seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.”
There is good news for the Celtics, though: they still have The Tin Man under contract for six years and $120 million.
Thank God this is only a hypothetical, huh?
If the Minnesota Timberwolves had not selected Ray Allen with the 5th pick of the 1996 NBA Draft, Allen said yesterday, Red Auerbach had committed to selecting Allen with the 6th pick.
Allen had only worked out for the top four teams in that draft, but the top four picks came and went without the UConn sharpshooter being picked. That left just one selection standing between Allen and the Celtics.
“I’m sitting with my family on draft day,” explained Allen during a speaking engagement at UConn, “and I’m ecstatic because before I came downstairs to the draft, I spoke to Red Auerbach. And he said, ‘If you come up at six, we got you.’ So in my mind, I was like, ‘Yes.’ I could still stay on (UConn’s) campus. I could play in Boston. I’m not leaving New England. That was my hope and my desire because I wanted to stay here, because fans in New England have been so great to me.
“So the 5th pick came and cameras came over to my table and Minnesota was picking, and my head dropped. How was this happening? I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even take a visit to Minnesota. I was like, ”They’re not following my rules.’ And unbeknownst to me, they could do whatever they want because they’re picking. And they picked me at the 5th pick, and I was very, very hot that day. I was getting drafted, but I was very, very hot. And then on draft day, I came back to the stage and I got traded to Milwaukee. And I was doing media for about five minutes, and I was speaking to everybody in Minnesota, and they were asking me what did I think about going to Minnesota, and what was it going to be like playing with their guys, and I was still mad. I was like, ‘Who’s in Minnesota?’ ”
Umm, Kevin Garnett. But back then, he was only just an inexperienced pup — a pitbull pup, but still a pup.
Ray Allen just wanted to stay in New England. But it’s probably for the best that he didn’t — Chris Wallace probably would have traded Allen for, I don’t know, Tony Delk and Rodney Rogers or something.
(h/t Red’s Army)
Reports indicate that the NBA’s next Collective Bargaining Agreement — whenever it’s agreed upon — will include an amnesty clause that will allow NBA teams to release one player, pay his salary, take no luxury tax liability, and erase that player’s salary for salary cap purposes.
The clause will obviously help certain teams — Orlando will certainly enjoy seeing Gilbert Arenas leave town, the Wizards will likely tell Rashard Lewis not to let the door hit him on the way out, and Portland could decide to cut Brandon Roy (and his balky knees) to conserve $15 million worth of cap space per season — and could also benefit other teams more subtly. The Heat, for example, would stand to be a desired location for any overpaid stars released under the amnesty requirement. Imagine Lebron James and Dwyane Wade flanked by Brandon Roy, assuming that Roy can still run up and down the court.
But the Boston Celtics will have more trouble taking advantage of the amnesty clause. With Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen on the last legs of their careers, the Celtics are no longer a top destination for veterans looking to piggyback their way to a ring. They also have no clear candidates to be released using the clause. Even if the Celtics released Kevin Garnett (and the $21 million left on his contract), that would leave them with more than $51 million of salary in 2011-12. That would likely put them just under the salary cap, and it would be difficult to replace Garnett’s production without having more money to spend. Ditto goes for Ray Allen, whose two-year, $20 million also expires after the 2011-12 season. Jermaine O’Neal, who will make $6.2 million next season in his contract’s final year, also would seem to be safe from being released under the provision: after all, he is currently Boston’s only center.
The Celtics could choose to release Paul Pierce to free Pierce’s $47 million for the next three seasons, clearing even more salary space for the summer of 2012. But that doesn’t make sense for a variety of different reasons. Before even elaborating on how cold it would be to release Pierce, who has played his entire career to date in Boston, Pierce just finished arguably the most efficient season of his career and it would be difficult to replace his varied talents in the free agent market. Additionally, for the 2011-12 season (assuming one happens), the Celtics would be hamstrung by the same lack of cap space even after releasing Pierce. If they are serious about contending once more with the current core (or twice more, if you see an empty glass and call it half-full), releasing anybody on the current roster does not make sense.
Only Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo and Pierce are on the books after the 2011-12 campaign. We’ve already discussed Pierce, Rondo is one of the league’s best bargains, and Bradley is still on his (inexpensive) rookie contract.
Likely, the Celtics would decline to use the amnesty clause, and instead enter the 2011-12 season with the same nucleus that has guided them the past four years, if only because the team has no natural amnesty candidates.
In a surprise on par with the sun rising each morning, Ray Allen told the Associated Press he is not considering retirement.
Allen also said he is willing to sit out the entire season if that’s what the players association decides is best.
“Nobody wants to miss a year,” he said. “But I’m prepared to do what the team needs me to do, what my players association, players union team, what they need me to do, because we want to make sure we get the right deal for us.”
When Allen and other older players state their loyalty to the players association, we should salute them: because Allen likely only has two or three seasons left in the league, any changes made to the Collective Bargaining Agreement will not affect him for long. With ten million reasons to hope the NBA resumes play in time for the first regular season game, Allen would benefit individually from a quick end to the labor negotiations regardless of how many concessions the players association makes. That he’s willing to stand by the union regardless of his own interests show that Allen is interested in the game’s future, not just the way the new CBA affects his own bank account.
Doc Rivers says some NBA coaching staffs have proceeded “business like normal,” but the Celtics staff is not one of them. (Boston Herald)
“It’s been interesting,” he said. “We have, what, seven signed players. But as a staff, we’ve still watched film, we’ve prepped. We’re meeting in a week again as a staff. I know some staffs have gone on business like normal, where they’ve been in the office every day. I made a conscious choice not to do that, because you just don’t know. The tough part is not knowing the rest of your roster.
“But we pretty much know who we are. We’re not changing much as far as our identity defensively and stuff like that. But there are areas we want to improve on, on offense and defense, and we’re going to do that.”
There are only so many times you can look at tape and say, “Yup, Kevin Garnett is a great defender, Paul Pierce likes the stepback jumper, Rajon Rondo can really pass, and — ya know what? — why don’t we try to get Ray Allen open for jumpers next season?”
Doc Rivers is familiar enough with his team that watching tape every day just doesn’t make sense. So for now, he has been living the life — “golf, family and that’s about it,” he said. Living the retired life well before retirement, and getting paid for it. Sounds like a decent deal.
As Rivers noted, the Celtics currently have only seven players (eight if you include E’Twaun Moore, whose second-round draft selection does not come with a guaranteed contract). One name who might interest the Celtics while filling out their roster: Grant Hill.
The 38-year old small forward is reportedly interested in joining a contender next season, and the Celtics have shown interest in the past. Hill might not be a perfect fit — the Celtics bench was starved for three-point shooting last season, and Hill has never been known as a knockdown shooter — but he’s a solid veteran with a versatile skill set. The Celtics will be limited by their salary, which figures to be over whatever salary cap is determined in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. But Hill could come cheap.
If he does, he could very well be on the Celtics’ free agent wish list, a list that Danny Ainge has spent more time making this offseason than ever before.
“We’ve done that,” he said, “but we’ve done that every summer, every draft and every trade deadline. It’s the same as usual. We’ve just had a lot more time to go over things.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’ll be prepared. We’ve just gotten organized in our scouting. We’re just more organized now.”
Organization will help, but Ainge will also need to be creative whenever the free agency period begins. Decisions will need to be made on Glen Davis and Jeff Green. Delonte West will need to be wooed. Centers will need to be convinced to sign. Ainge will have to fill eight roster spots despite a severe lack of spending money, and he will have to juggle the success of next year and the desire to leave salary open for a 2012 spending spree.
Godspeed, Danny. Godspeed.