|Irish Coffee: Fifty shades of Ray Allen||07.09.12 at 7:14 pm ET|
Ray Allen‘s decision to take his talents from Boston to South Beach for half the price and better than twice the odds of winning another NBA championship ran most Celtics fans through the five stages of grief.
- Denial: The Celtics offered Allen $12 million over two years. The Heat offered $9 million over three years. He’s already made $178 million in his career, but there’s no way he’s going to Miami, right? RIGHT?
- Anger: If Judas Shuttlesworth prefers the glitz and glam of a team in its prime that eliminated the Celtics each of the last two seasons to the grit and balls of an aging team that took LeBron James & Co. to the seventh game of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, who needs him anyway?
- Bargaining: Never a great defender, the 36-year-old Allen missed 20 games this past season due to a pair of bum ankles, and then averaged just 10.7 points on 39.5 percent shooting in the playoffs. In the end, all he really did was run around and make a couple 3-pointers every night. How hard can he be to replace?
- Depression: Allen made 1,004 triples in a Celtics uniform, and each seemingly brought the C’s back from the dead, snared a lead or sent a nail through another coffin. Eight broke the NBA finals single-game record, and another set the league’s career mark — all against the Lakers. How can you replace that?
- Acceptance: Playing through bone spurs, the ever-prepared Allen gave the C’s everything he had until the end, and that never stopped Danny Ainge & Co. from shopping him every trade deadline, benching him for a 21-year-old kid and always keeping his longterm future in Boston on the back burner. Who wouldn’t leave?
Whether like Doc Rivers you believe, “He should’ve stayed,” you lump in with the traitorous likes of Johnny Damon or like me you think his time in a Celtics uniform had come and gone, and his departure won’t change the fates of either team all that much, one thing is clear: Ray Allen didn’t want to be here anymore. Now what?
It could’ve been the trade rumors for guys like Monta Ellis or O.J. Mayo, who although less established were also much less old. It could’ve been the demotion to Sixth Man behind second-year guard Avery Bradley, whose defensive energy, knack for the basket and developing corner trey transformed a meddling .500 team into a legitimate title contender. It could’ve been the open declaration of Kevin Garnett as their top offseason priority, even if, c’mon, this Celtics team wasn’t worth salvaging without Garnett. It could’ve been the Rajon Rondo rift.
Whatever it was, Allen wanted out of Boston so bad he took half the annual salary to play for the C’s biggest conference rival. His No. 20 won’t be raised to the Garden rafters, although there’s sure to be a video package when the Heat come to town that will make Kendrick Perkins‘ montage seem like Adam Sandler‘s “Jack & Jill.”
Despite its diminishment, his role still needs to be filled, especially now that Bradley’s right shoulder surgery could cost him the start of the season. The addition of Jason Terry will go a long way in solving that riddle, but as currently constituted the immortal E’Twaun Moore is backing up both guard positions in November.
That’s why C’s coach Doc Rivers met with restricted free agent shooting guard Courtney Lee on Saturday night, as ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported. And that’s why Raja Bell‘s interest in the Celtics following his buyout agreement with the Jazz, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, adds some intrigue.
If there is mutual interest between the Celtics and Lee, as he suggested to several media outlets at the Orlando Summer League on Monday, the Rockets must agree to a sign-and-trade in order to facilitate his arrival. The 26-year-old made $2.2 million last year and received a $4.4 million qualifying offer for this coming season, so he’s likely seeking a multiyear deal in the annual range of $5 million after averaging 11.4 points (43.3 FG%, 40.1 3P%, 82.6 FT%), 2.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.2 steals in 30.3 minutes a night.
Even as a non-taxpaying team, the C’s would have to send around $4 million in salaries back to Houston, so it will take some creativity on Ainge’s part and possibly a third team to strike a deal. That’s Option A at this point.
Option B likely includes anyone from this list of free agent options at shooting guard willing to sign for the veteran minimum or $2 million bi-annual exception. Mickael Pietrus is one, and Bell may be another.
Battling a left knee injury that limited him to 34 games last season, Bell averaged 6.4 points (46.6 FG%, 39.1 3P%, 84.0 FT%) while adding 1.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 23.4 minutes per game for the Jazz.
“From the exit interview and to this point we’ve agreed that we’re going to work on a buyout,” Bell told The Tribune. “I think we’ve got to a point where both sides are satisfied with it. … We got to a point where we’ve agreed that everybody’s satisfied going forward, and so I’ve heard from — I can’t put a number on it — a handful of teams.”
While Bell has seen a steady decline in minutes and production since he averaged 14.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists for two straight seasons in a Suns uniform during the mid 2000s, he’s still a career 40 percent shooter from beyond the arc, and his physical defense fits the C’s style of play. Unfortunately, so too does his age.
If the Celtics split Allen’s minutes between a 34-year-old Terry and 35-year-old Bell, then Allen’s departure may mean more than a grieving process. But should Ainge land Lee in addition to Terry, it won’t be such a shame about Ray, at least on the court anyway, since the Celtics will have transitioned from the oldest of the Big Three to a legit backcourt of Rondo, Bradley and Lee (all 26 and under) while stilling contending for a title.
(Have a question, concern or conception for the next Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
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