As soon as Ray Allen agreed to sign with the Miami Heat, the
most fervent Celtics supporters began their over-rationalizing. The Celtics
were better off without him, they said, and he was not even capable of
contributing much to the team anymore, anyway. The loss of Allen was made out
to be some sort of addition by subtraction.
That was not true at the time, of course. Jason Terry was on
board when Allen reportedly agreed to his two-year deal with the Heat in July,
but Terry is a notch below Allen as a player both right now and over the course
of their illustrious careers. The eventual additions of Courtney Lee and
Leandro Barbosa may have made the Celtics deeper and more versatile at the
off-guard position, but that is the benefit of hindsight. Losing Allen immediately
made the Celtics worse while making an Eastern Conference rival better.
Allen reminded the Celtics that he is not quite done with a
vintage performance in helping his new team, the Heat, beat his old team, the
Celtics, in a defense-optional track meet on Tuesday. Playing more than 30
minutes, Allen scored 19 points on 5-for-7 shooting to bury Boston 120-107.
The most egregious mistake was made by the player who nominally
replaced Allen, and it came within a minute of both players checking in for
their new teams for the first time.
As Miami point guard Norris Cole dribbled along the
baseline, he was momentarily trapped by Celtics defenders. But Terry, guarding
Allen, inexplicably took his eye off the most accomplished 3-point shooter in
NBA history, who slid behind Terry and into the corner, directly into Cole's
line of sight. Cole passed to Allen and Allen fired a shot, slightly fading to
the left, as Celtics fans watched him do hundreds of times over the last five
years. Of course, it went in.
"He was terrific," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said
of Allen. "He made shots, he went right all game and we allowed him. But
he made a lot of shots. You can live with LeBron [James] and [Dwyane] Wade
making jump shots, but the first play Ray was on the floor, we leave him by
himself in a corner. You would think we would know better."
The Celtics probably did know better, but so did the Lakers,
Cavaliers, Magic and others over the years. Allen's ability to get the shot he
wanted, no matter the defense's intentions, helped deliver a 17th championship
banner to Boston in 2008.
Last season was an injury-riddled year for Allen. He shot a
career-best 45 percent from long distance but bone fragments in both ankles
limited him to 46 games and his production tapered off as the pain intensified
in the playoffs. He looked finished, but anybody who remembered how he bounced
back from his last major ankle surgery in 2007 and saw the way he obsessively
trained to get back on the court last season knew better.
Allen appeared far from finished on Tuesday. Hate him if you
want. Boo him if that makes you feel better. But do not act like the future
Hall of Famer guard had nothing left. He has plenty left. He just happens to be
expending it for a different team.