At this point, you can bet your bottom dollar the Celtics won't be standing pat at the trading deadline. The C's trade for Nate Robinson is happening, and it's likely only a matter of time before it becomes official.
But you have to wonder if that's really the only deal Danny Ainge has in mind before Thursday afternoon's deadline, or whether there's something bigger in the works, too.
In other words, you have to wonder about Ray Allen.
We're now inside the final 24 hours leading up to Thursday's deadline, and the Celtics are running out of time if they're going to make a dramatic move to shake up the Big Three.
And what's the latest buzz on Allen? It happens to be that he's rested, relaxed and, believe it or not, not freaking out about the trade rumors.
"Again, I've never been an over-emotional person," Allen told The Boston Globe. "It's either black or white with me. If it happens, I'm gone and I will see you later. The game is going to be the same and I got to come in here and do my job. It will be time to move forward. I think everybody else wants to know ? but it doesn't affect me one way or another."
That, in a nutshell, is Ray Allen.
The consummate professional. The grizzled veteran. The smart, polished guy who understands the game and knows all the angles. He understands his place, he understands his role in Boston and he understands that everything could change in the blink of an eye. And he's maintained his calm, never wavering for a minute.
Allen isn't worrying about it, at least not publicly, but he certainly knows it's true: The Celtics have a big, big decision to make about one of the cornerstone pieces of their team. Three years ago, Ainge altered Celtics history by swinging a deal on draft night to acquire Allen. It was a bold move that redefined the identity of the franchise. If the Celtics deal Allen now, the move would be just as big.
As great as Allen has been, there are reasons to pull the trigger. He's aging. His $18.8 million expiring contract is surprisingly desirable, especially in this market. And the Celtics, who have slipped from first to fourth in the Eastern Conference standings over the past two months, could use a shake-up.
But with this team playoff bound and Allen one of the healthiest, most productive Celtics around, you can't justify trading him without getting some semblance of equal value in return.
One of the rumors was trading in Allen, an aging shooting guard, for Golden State's Monta Ellis or Sacramento's Kevin Martin, effectively a younger model. Good luck getting that deal done.
One possibility is unloading him for a pair of smaller pieces, sending him to a team that could use the salary relief. The Wizards for Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison was the first idea — but Butler's since been shipped to Dallas, and Jamison is headed to Cleveland. A Chicago package involving Tyrus Thomas and Kirk Hinrich? Maybe, but the Spurs are going hard after Thomas and Boston is losing ground.
Ainge is running out of options. If he really thinks it's time to part ways with his nine-time All-Star guard, he's going to end up forcing it.
There have been rumblings out there about a potential Allen trade for months. And they haven't been entirely unrealistic — there have been solid trade pieces available all over the NBA, many of which Boston could put to good use. But one by one, all the attractive options are fading away.
Whatever he does, Ainge should be careful not to deal for the sake of dealing. Even if he's been committed to dealing Allen in his mind for a long time, he shouldn't go through with it just to fulfill a promise to himself. There's a potential championship at stake, and this is about making the Celtics a better team for the long haul.
If they don't trade Allen now, the Celtics will probably end up keeping him for a while. When his Bird rights kick in after three years with the team, Ainge will be able to re-sign him cheaply next summer if he plays out the remainder of his contract. So the choice becomes very black and white — either you get rid of Allen now and never see him again, or you let him finish his career in green.
Ray Allen has been a consistent, reliable and, above all, unbelievably professional member of this team for nearly three years. That's not something you see every day in the NBA. And it's not something you throw away without a very, very good reason.