The Ray Allen Boo-Fest will visit the TD Garden on Sunday, following such highly anticipated events as Disney on Ice and the debut of the NHL season. It should be a festive atmosphere, fueled by bitterness, as Boston fans let the former Celtics guard know exactly how they feel about his decision to sign with the hated Miami Heat last summer.
While those folks are busy playing the role of jilted lovers, though, they should take a moment to consider whether Allen is most deserving of their ire. Perhaps they should direct those boos at their own bench. It is debatable, right now, whether the former Celtic or the current Celtics are actually a greater source of disgust for Boston fans.
Allen gave Boston five good years. He set the NBA’s record for career 3-pointers here, helped the Celtics reach two NBA Finals and come within one victory of a third, and played a major part in bringing a 17th championship banner to the rafters of the TD Garden. He owed us nothing last July when he accepted a 50 percent pay cut from what the Celtics were offering to join the Heat, who were tailor-made for Allen’s skills. His numbers are down this season, but watching Heat games there is little question LeBron James and the rest of his new teammates actively look to get him the ball late in close games.
The Celtics, meanwhile, have lost six straight games. They are coming off an inexcusable defeat in Atlanta on Friday, when they blew a 27-point lead and sputtered to the end of a double-overtime loss. They have the third-worst rebounding differential in the league, a nonexistent post game at either end of the court and an offensive perimeter game entirely confined to the two corners. If the playoffs began today, they would be the eight seed in the Eastern Conference. They would face the Heat in the first round, and they would probably be swept.
“Who do we think we are? We’re under .500,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, pre-empting his own fans’ disgust after Friday’s loss. “We get a lead and we start acting like we’re the 2008 team. We’re not. We haven’t earned that right.”
Allen certainly need not be embraced. He had a chance to stay in the place his family came to call home, and due to collective bargaining rules, the Celtics may have had greater payroll flexibility to fill out the rest of their roster had he stayed. His departure alone is not responsible for the Celtics’ difficulties, but it did set in motion a series of events that have put the Celtics in their current situation.
The Celtics were plenty streaky during Allen’s tenure. Over the last three years, the Celtics occasionally played as though only one half of the season counts. Nobody would be surprised if Paul Pierce takes a needed break during All-Star Weekend and comes back to play at an MVP level for the stretch run to push the Celtics into another postseason that defies all expectations. Yet it is hard to recall Rivers ever referring to his team’s play as a “joke,” as he described the Celtics’ transition defense against the Hawks. Really, he could have been describing numerous aspects of the Celtics’ play.
The Celtics may be back to their old ways eventually, but at the moment they are far from the proud group that has done so much to deserve applause over the years. Allen may have spurned Boston, but he never embarrassed it. Boo away this Sunday, at whichever target you see fit.
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