Ray Allen didn’t go to China just to look for Brandon Jennings. He went to China to play in the Super Penguin Celebrity Basketball Game in Shanghai. While he may not have found his nemesis Jennings there, Pierce accomplished something more important than that.
We know about the Beantown Break-up that left a sour note on the relationship between Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. With the 10th year anniversary of the Boston Celtics’ 2008 NBA championship coming soon, Pierce’s trip to China may have paved the way for a happy ending.
Pierce played with Allen in the celebrity game and according to Tencent, ESPN’s partner in China, the two future Hall of Famers had a meeting and talked about family, Hurricane Irma among other topics. After the meeting, Pierce posted a photo of him and his former teammate:
With Pierce calling out to ‘bury the hatchet’, this photo could lead to one of the most highly sought after sports reconciliations of all-time.
A month after the Miami Heat beat the Boston Celtics in seven games in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, Ray Allen turned down a more lucrative offer from Boston to sign with Miami. Allen chose the Heat’s three year deal worth just over $10M over the two year deal worth $12M the Celtics were offering.
But it wasn’t Allen’s departure that made his buddies salty. It was in the manner he did so. According to Paul Pierce:
"I was initially hurt by the whole way everything went down. ... I thought we formed a brotherhood here in Boston. Just how we carried ourselves, not only on the court, but off the court. And I just figured if it was me leaving or KG leaving, then I would have been like, 'Rondo, Perk, Baby, this is what I've been thinking about.' That's what I was hurt by when Ray didn't just at least give us a heads-up about it."
Not only did Allen not give his teammates a heads-up, he moved to their rivals.
The Celtics formed one of the earlier versions of the “Big Three “ when it had Pierce, Allen and Kevin Garnett on their roster. You could have even called it a Fantastic Four, considering that Rajon Rondo was the starting point guard of that group and Rondo was then in his peak. The point is, Boston had a super team and that team went on to defeat the Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals and give the Celtics their first ( and only ) title in the post-Larry Bird era.
Three years later though, a new and more high profile trio got together in Miami. LeBron James and Chris Bosh decided to join forces with fellow 2004 draft classmate Dwyane Wade in South Beach to form what was then the new super team of the NBA in Miami. At Boston’s expense in the East Semis, the Heat went to the 2011 NBA Finals, only to lose to the Dallas Mavericks. A season after that, the Celtics and Heat met again during the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. Again, LeBron’s Heat eliminated Boston, 4-3.
Winning Another Title
The Celtics had lost grip of their stranglehold of the Eastern Conference. There was a new Beast in the East and it wasn’t them anymore. Ray Allen was already 37 years old. He had lost his starting job to the young Avery Bradley. Boston had just signed veteran shooting guard Jason Terry. Allen’s relationship with Rajon Rondo was deteriorating. And yeah, the Heat were favored to win the NBA title.
With Father time no longer on his side, Ray Allen chose to join the dark side ( nothing bad about Miami, just that the Heat’s road color is black ). Allen didn’t look at it as a move to spurn his buddies in Boston. He did it because he had another opportunity, the best at that point in time, to win another NBA championship ring. And he did.
The Miami Heat went on to win the NBA title in 2013, their second consecutive championship. Not only did Ray Allen play for that squad, he played a very crucial role in the Heat’s title retention bid. In fact, he may have hit the biggest dagger in the history of the Miami Heat franchise.
Jesus Saved The Heat
With the Heat trailing the series 2-3 and the Spurs up by two points with the shot clock off, Ray Allen hit a corner three off a Chris Bosh offensive rebound that sent the game to overtime. Miami prevailed in OT and went on to defeat the Spurs in Game 7.
It was the most dramatic turnaround in NBA championship history as the Spurs had the championship in sight, leading by five points with 30 seconds left in the game. But in one of the rare tactical mistakes committed by Gregg Popovich, he left Tim Duncan on the bench so the Spurs could switch on the final play. As a consequence, Bosh grabbed the offensive rebound on the LeBron miss and found Allen waiting for the pass at the corner. Swish. Jesus saved the Heat.
While Allen basked with the Heat in glory, the rest of the Boston title team disbanded. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were infamously traded to Mikhail Prokhorov’s ambitious Brooklyn Nets. Rajon Rondo was traded a season later as the Celtics moved on from their 2008 Big Three in favor of a rebuild to be led by newly hired coach Brad Stevens.
Burying The Hatchet
The 2008 Celtics had a mini-reunion at Kevin Garnett’s Area 21 show on TNT during the 2017 NBA Playoffs coverage and conspicuously absent was Ray Allen. Garnett, Pierce, Rondo, Glen Davis and Kendrick Perkins were there discussing plans to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Boston’s most recent NBA title conquest. They also talked about Ray Allen and how they felt about him. And again, they talked about how Allen could’ve handled it differently:
"I just feel like, it ain't what Ray did, it's how he did it," said Perkins. "We did form a family. We all shed tears together, talked about some of the deepest things -- I'm talking about outside of basketball that the world don't know about. If you felt like you wanted to go that way and [sign with a rival], I just think he could have handled it a different way."
"Who going to break the ice? At this point and time, I don't think it's on nobody on here to break the ice," said Perkins. "I actually think it's on Ray to break the ice. If Ray wants to make amends with anybody up here or whatever the case, I think it's on him to reach out and say, 'Hey [Pierce], I handled this wrong. Man, we better than this. Hey Ticket, I handled this wrong. Hey Big Baby, I handled this wrong, or hey, Rondo, I handled this wrong, man.' Just get it past this, man. We won games together, man. We did a lot of things."
In the end it was Paul Pierce who made peace. After all, Pierce was and still is the Celtics’ captain. And as the 10th anniversary of that 2008 title winning season comes nearer, the thought of seeing everybody on that team together in a reunion is closer than ever before to reality. It’s been a long time now. The Celtics have a new team led by Kyrie Irving. It is time to bury the hatchet.
Setting The Tone
While it’s unclear at this time that Garnett, Rondo and the rest of the guys have already ‘forgiven’ Ray Allen ( or will do so ) , Paul Pierce’s gesture should set the tone. As for Allen, nothing has changed since 2008:
“I haven't said anything negative about these guys. It's been five or six years since I've been gone. Seems like it was a year or two ago. When I left, I was a free agent. It's disheartening when you hear negative things people say about you, because when you win, you love each other, the families are close all time. When you win together, you always share that bond. That, to me, it's never changed."
Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are bound by destiny to be together in another team, the greatest basketball team at that. The trio are a lock to be named to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, first-ballot most probably. With that surely happening in the future and the 10th anniversary of the 2008 championship coming, all’s well that ends well for these basketball legends.
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