Allowing Ray Allen to Enter Free Agency Could Pay Off for Celtics

Allowing Ray Allen to Enter Free Agency Could Pay Off for Celtics By now, we're all aware of the NBA's wealth of free agents available on the open market next summer. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh … the list goes on.

The Celtics entered this season with two noteworthy names to add to that list. One was Rajon Rondo; the other, Ray Allen. One was taken care of right away; the other, not so much. One can only wonder what this means.

With Rondo and Allen as the two expiring contracts of consequence on their active roster, the Celtics took action in the very first week of the regular season to work out a long-term contract extension with the younger, cheaper of the two. That would be Rondo. The Celtics agreed to terms in early November with their 23-year-old point guard on a five-year, $55 million contract. Rondo then took the court this season determined to earn every penny of it.

Allen, however, remains an expiring contract. And the rumors on how this situation will be resolved — much like his play, actually — are all over the place.

In August, we heard an intriguing rumor about Allen's family situation. The guard's teenage daughter, Tierra, had made plans to move in with her father in Wellesley, Mass., and attend Wellesley High School. If the young Allen had a future in Boston, why wouldn't her father, too?

In September, Allen was openly talking extension with the media, responding "of course" when asked by a Globe reporter about his interest on working out a long-term contract to stay in Boston.

But weeks later, he insisted that "we haven't talked about an extension," telling fans and the media to focus on the team winning a championship, not his next contract getting signed.

And then the season began. With the team around him battling injuries left and right, Allen has been a rock for the Celtics, starting all 41 games this season. But his shooting has been sporadic. With a 3-point percentage of 34.7, Allen is having his worst season ever offensively.

It's almost like Allen's playing like a 34-year-old.

With Allen starting to show his age on both ends of the floor, the trade buzz is starting to percolate. Ray Allen, a future Hall of Famer, is being thrown out there as a trade chip for names like Monta Ellis and Trevor Ariza.

Allen turns 35 in July, and his stock has never been lower. At this point, how good a deal could he possibly get?

He's been healthy and has played more minutes than anyone on the Celtics roster but he hasn't been playing like the superstar the Celtics acquired three years ago. He's looked less and less like a franchise player.

The Celtics are staying cautious with their aging shooting guard. They don't want to end up overpaying now on a contract extension that could turn out to cost them down the road. If Rondo, a young kid with three seasons under his belt, is worth $11 million a year, how much will Allen demand? Labels like "All-Star" and "Hall of Famer" are flashy, but you don't want to spend too much cash on them.

Rather than throw too much money at Allen now, the Celtics might be better off just letting him fall to the open market this summer. That way, he'll be overshadowed by the game's biggest stars who will steal the headlines and the big money, making Allen slide under the radar. Maybe that way, he'll come back to Boston on the cheap.

Maybe Ray Allen is destined to end up a part of the free-agent frenzy. But he's not destined to leave Boston — and one way or another, the Celtics can ensure a better future by keeping Allen around a little longer.

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