Ray Allen has obviously meant a lot to the Celtics over the last five years, but Rajon Rondo means more to the Celtics' future. As a result, if it's true that the relationship between the two backcourt gems has become strained over the last year, it's time for Boston to say goodbye to Jesus Shuttlesworth.
Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix joined the Dennis & Callahan Morning Show on WEEI on Monday morning, and according to WEEI.com's Jerry Spar, Mannix said that because of a rift with Rondo, Allen's return to Boston looks unlikely.
Mannix told WEEI:
I think there's no question that the relationship was strained over this year. How strained is the key, and it's still a little bit unclear. There was some friction between those two. I think that could play a role in Ray's decision not to come back. Now, I agree, I think that Boston probably wasn't going to bring him back anyway. … But I think the relationship over the last year between Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo soured. Now, I'm not entirely clear as to how bad it got. But certainly I know that there was some legitimate, palpable friction between those two players and I think that will ultimately affect his decision in free agency.
Mannix added that Allen is likely to garner a lot of interest this offseason and will probably field offers from New York, Miami or Chicago.
It's no secret that Rondo's attitude can become tiresome. There have long been rumors that he can be an insubordinate and irascible clubhouse presence, to the point where it hurts the team. And despite what he might think, he has lots of room to develop in the maturity department.
But he is the point guard of the future in Boston, and he's done a pretty good job solidifying himself in the role over the last five seasons that he's been the starter.
If Ray is in the way—Ray, who is going to be 37 by the time the 2012-13 season begins—the Celtics need to do what's best for the team and let him go to the Clippers or the Knicks or whatever team tickles his fancy at the moment. It's unlikely that they can afford to keep him anyway.
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That isn't to say that Allen's impact on the Celtics this postseason wasn't significant. When Avery Bradley went down and Allen needed to step up and play more minutes than he had any business playing against the best team in the Eastern Conference, he did it—and he did it well, registering 11.9 points in 40.1 minutes per game versus the Heat.
But Ray is moving into the twilight of his career. He may be a pure shooter and his legs may able to take more abuse than those of most 37-year-olds, but the Celtics are going to have to rebuild their team over the next few years—and in the process, their team chemistry—and Rondo is the player they're building around.
The NBA is a business, and right now, the Celtics need to make the best business decision for their future. Unfortunately, it might not include Ray Allen.