Four former Boston Celtics players from the 2008 championship team joined Kevin Garnett’s Area 21 segment on TNT on Monday, but Ray Allen was not among them. Instead, he was the topic of discussion as Paul Pierce, Kendrick Perkins, and Glen Davis each took turns airing their grievances with the way Allen abandoned the Big 3 in 2012.
Rajon Rondo, the lone active player of the group, was on the set, but declined to comment.
“It was more than basketball for us… It felt like a sour breakup.”— KG's Area 21 (@KGArea21) May 9, 2017
Pierce, KG, Rondo, Big Baby & Perk share their thoughts on Ray Allen. pic.twitter.com/8JYRWmxm0i
“People don’t understand that this is real life for us, and that the situation with Ray is very sensitive,” Garnett said. “I think when we all talked about doing this reunion tour, we were talking about guys we considered loyal and a part of this group. Just being honest, my two cents man, when Ray decided to go to the Heat, I feel like he moved on. He went to pursue another ring, and he got another ring. Shoutout to him. And that’s it. It wasn’t no other Wizards, it wasn’t no other Heat, it wasn’t no other Spurs. It was all Celtics invited to this.”
Allen responded to the Area 21 segment on Facebook, posting an image of himself in a Heat jersey elbowing by Rondo during a game. The caption reads: “The power to push limits.”
How did this relationship turn sour?
Both Allen and Garnett joined Pierce and the Celtics in 2007, forming the league’s first legitimate Big 3. The trio went on to win an NBA championship that season, knocking out the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. Boston returned to the Finals in 2010, but eventually fell to the Lakers.
But as the Celtics aged, LeBron James hit his stride. In Miami, James dominated the Eastern Conference, making four consecutive NBA Finals appearances. That meant the end of an era for a Boston team that still felt it was championship caliber.
Allen saw the writing on the wall and left Boston during the 2012 free agency period. His name was often mentioned in trade rumors, while Pierce and Garnett never heard a peep about being dealt. That was hard for Allen, who once said that “control is basically the agenda of my life. To take charge of everything and make decisions for myself.” Allen had also been traded twice in his career already.
He and Rondo also had their own separate grievances.
While the orchestrator declined to speak on Allen’s departure on Monday, the two had their run-ins in the past. Most notably, Allen and Rondo had to be separated, according to Sports Illustrated, because the shooter believed his point guard was intentionally looking him off.
When Rondo re-signed with Boston, his teammates held a small dinner at a restaurant. Allen didn’t show up. It wasn’t the first time, and it wasn’t unique to Rondo.
"It was a weird relationship,” Pierce said in a 2015 interview with ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan. "We were all good friends on the court, but Ray always did his own thing. That's just the way Ray was. Even when we were playing together, we'd be having a team dinner and Ray wouldn't show up. We'd go to his charity events but Ray wouldn't show up to somebody else's.”
Pierce also revealed on Monday that Allen and head coach Doc Rivers had a souring relationship before that fateful summer.
The stars aligned for an untimely departure.
The sharp-shooter turned down $6 million per year from the Celtics to sign at half that amount with the Heat. The decision was a stake through the hearts of his former teammates.
“I don’t have Ray’s number anymore,” Garnett said, according to ESPN Boston. “I’m trying not to communicate.”
It was the fact that he joined the very Heat team the Celtics were competing against, coupled with his decision not to give his teammates a heads up, that fueled the angst between he and his former brothers. Pierce intimated that sentiment on Monday, and both Davis and Perkins agreed. It wasn’t that Allen left. It was how he left:
“I was initially hurt by the whole way everything went down. ... I just figured if it was me leaving, I would have [called each player and said] ‘this is what I’ve been thinking about,’” Pierce said during on Area 21. “That’s what I was hurt by when Ray didn’t at least give us a heads up about it. And then, to go to the team [that we were competing against.] I think I would have took it better if he just talked to us about it. I don’t know how his relationship was with Doc, it was kind of souring at the time because Avery was getting more minutes. So I can understand all that.
“But I just felt like we should have had a conversation, and it was have settled over a little bit more. I don’t think we would have been as salty. ... I just think if we would have talked about it, it would’ve been a little different than it is now. Now it’s uncomfortable. I haven’t talked to Ray in some years now. It’s just different.”
Rondo is arranging a 10th anniversary trip for the 2007-08 Celtics championship team, and Allen wasn’t invited. It was a group decision, not Rondo’s own. We don’t know if each party will ever reconcile and be brothers again.
What we do know is that this beef runs deep. And there’s no knowing if Allen will ever climb out.