It’s one thing with Paul Pierce, who’s the Celtics’ captain and has fought with this team through thick and thin for 12 years. He has to stay. But Ray Allen is different — he’s a hired mercenary. He came three years ago, he won a title, and now he’s free to go if he so chooses. This is a scary question: Will the Celtics re-sign Ray Allen?
It’s scary because it’s really hard to have any read on the situation either way. Allen seems to be a good fit in Boston basketball-wise, and he’s a solid veteran presence in the locker room. Both sides have been happy with the arrangement, but there’s been no indication that Allen is here to stay.
Allen’s tenure in Boston started well, with the veteran shooting guard serving as an integral cog in the Celtics machine that won a championship in 2008. But it ended sourly.
Allen shot just 19-of-49 in the last five games of the NBA Finals, and his failure to hit the big shot was a big part of the Celtics’ collapse in Games 6 and 7 against the Lakers. At 34, with a chance to prove on the game’s biggest stage that he’s still the same legendary shooter he’s always been, Allen missed a golden opportunity.
Even the most optimistic Celtics fan had to wonder if maybe a younger, spryer, more explosive two-guard could have helped the Celtics get over the hump in L.A.
Allen is still a prolific scorer and a nine-time All-Star — but if he couldn’t come through for the Celtics when they really needed him, how much can he be worth?
Once the franchise player of the Seattle SuperSonics, Allen cashed in for $80 million over five years when he signed a five-year contract extension back in 2005. The Celtics paid him $52 million in three years.
He’s not worth that kind of money anymore — at least not to Danny Ainge and the Celtics. But this is a seller’s market, and there’s no telling how much money he could get from a team desperate to use their cap space on a big-name player.
There are so many teams with salary cap room this summer that aren’t likely to land any of the big-name free agents. Think about New Jersey, Washington, and the L.A. Clippers. They’ve got all this money to throw around, and what do they do with it? They can’t lure a LeBron James or a Chris Bosh, but they can’t just pocket the extra cash, either — their fan bases will crucify them.
So they try to overpay a guy like Allen. If Ainge and the Celtics only want to give Allen $8 million a year for two years, and another, more desperate GM tries to offer up three years at $10 million per, which will he choose?
How loyal is Ray Allen?
And perhaps just as importantly, how sensible are the Celtics?
Neither side is tipping its hand at the moment. The C’s are playing hard to get, flirting with David Lee and Brad Miller on the side, while Allen isn’t saying much of anything.
That’s Allen’s personality, really — he’s a quiet, low-key, unassuming guy, and he’s not going to make a big stink about his decision either way.
It’s distinctly possible that in the end, Allen decides that what he’s got in Boston is too good to walk away. But money talks, and Allen will no doubt listen. It’s hard to be sure.
NESN.com will answer one Celtics question every day in July.
Friday, July 2: Will Paul Pierce opt back in?
Sunday, July 4: How high is Rajon Rondo’s ceiling?