Ray Allen Enjoying Last Laugh Over Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistMay 13, 2014

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 12:  Ray Allen #34 of the Miami Heat celebrates his basket in the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Barclays Center on May 12, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Miami Heat defeated the Brooklyn Nets 102-96. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Ray Allen's decision to leave the Boston Celtics for the Miami Heat in 2012 was met with roaring disapproval by those he once called friends.

Doc Rivers, while owning up to his role in the matter, spoke of Allen's ego.

Paul Pierce played the martyr, describing Allen's departure as the ultimate act of betrayal

Kevin Garnett purged his contacts of Allen's phone number, true to his fiery loyalty and lasting immaturity.

Rajon Rondo, well, he didn't care. Forget about him. 

Forget about Rivers too. This is about Allen, Pierce and Garnett, formerly known as Boston's Three Party. They won a championship together. They battled LeBron James together. They bled Celtics green together.

Then Allen left. After five years, he up and left. Just like that. Because he's smart. And nearly two years later, Pierce and Garnett are seeing why.


A Smart Departure 

Elise Amendola/Associated Press

When Allen jumped ship, his departure from Boston was admittedly not ideal. But it was necessary. 

Avery Bradley became a more prominent part of the Celtics rotation during the 2012 playoffs. Allen was backing him up. He was coming off the bench while Pierce and Garnett continued starting.

Anything for the team, though, right? Yes, but only to a point. The Celtics weren't using Allen properly. Hobbled by injuries, he was suddenly tasked with creating more of his own shots. The spot-up opportunities were vanishing. He shot 39.5 percent from the floor and 30.4 percent from deep during the 2012 playoffs, which remain career lows. 

And what was he making sacrifices for exactly? A team that could contend with the Heat without ever actually beating them in a best-of-seven series? Cool. At 36, that wasn't good enough.

Once he entered free agency, Allen saw an opportunity. Like any smart businessman, he seized it. Pierce and Garnett couldn't accept that. They expected him to stay, to re-sign with the Celtics like the latter did. 

"I don't have Ray's number anymore," Garnett said last September, via ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst. "I'm not trying to communicate. I'm just being honest with everybody in here."

True to form, Garnett blatantly shunned Allen when the Celtics and Heat first faced each other. Since then, it's been one ridiculous sentiment after another.

"It definitely hurt me," Pierce would admit last April, per The Boston Herald (via Bleacher Report). "Say we play the Lakers for the championship, and two years later I go and sign with the Lakers. That’s the equivalent of what he did.’"

Never mind that Allen was offensively marginalized during his last season in Boston, or that the Celtics tried to trade him. Allen was the only disloyal one. Shame on him. 

But despite Pierce and Garnett crying foul, Allen hasn't lost any sleep. How so, you ask? Well, for one, he's clearly a two-faced sociopath with no regard for Garnett's and Pierce's feelings (he's not). Mostly, it's that second championship ring of his.

In his first season with the Heat, Allen won a title. Not only that, but he saved Miami's season in the process, hitting what remains the biggest three-pointer of his career in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Without him, the Heat don't win their second straight title. 

Garnett and Pierce, meanwhile, toiled away in Boston, where they both averaged more than 29 minutes per night through the regular season, continuing the slow, unsteady grind Allen so selfishly abandoned. Their reward? A first-round exit at the hands of the New York Knicks.

Some reward.


Turning Tables

BROOKLYN, NY - July 18: Paul Pierce #34 and Kevin Garnett #2 of the Brooklyn Nets interact during a press conference at the Barclays Center on July 18, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees th
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Facing the prospect of rebuilding in Boston, Pierce and Garnett left. They were traded, yes, but that trade with the Brooklyn Nets doesn't go down without their approval. Garnett actually had a no-trade clause in his contract.

After slogging through an offseason predicament of their own, Garnett and Pierce could finally understand what Allen went through. 

Or not.

"I left Boston?" Pierce said in October, clearly drawing attention to the fact that he was traded and didn't leave in free agency, per ESPN NewYork's Mike Mazzeo.

Technically, Pierce was both right and wrong. He and Garnett had some control over where they landed last summer, just like Allen did in 2012. Whether he admits it or not, the situations were similar. But whatever. Let it go. 

Upon acquiring Pierce and Garnett, the Nets were lauded as a threat, as a legitimate obstacle in front of the Heat, as actual championship contenders. Their transition, however, has not gone swimmingly.

Things haven't gone according to plan in Brooklyn.
Things haven't gone according to plan in Brooklyn.Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Brook Lopez was lost for the season. Garnett missed 28 games. Pierce was less a glorified role player, more a sporadic contributor who rose to the occasion only when Brooklyn faced Miami. Deron Williams was basically a joke. 

The Nets' dream team, for much of the season, was a nightmare.

No matter, though, they recovered in time to make the playoffs. With a little late-season tanking, they ensured they would face the Heat if they made it out of the first round, which is just what they're doing. 

They're just not doing it well. 

Four regular-season victories have meant little in this second-round series. The Nets trail the Heat 3-1 and are now facing elimination in Game 5, presenting them with a test that Bleacher Report's Jim Cavan says they aren't prepared to pass:

Even if we get Williams at his whirling-dervish best. Even if Iso-Joe jumpstarts a run or two. Even if Pierce’s savvy somehow scales the scourge of age. Even if KG’s yawps shake the stands and shatter the rafters.

This Brooklyn team has never wanted for pride. Production, however—the kind that can somehow quell a conquering King—was simply never there in steady enough supply.

The team Allen left Boston for is pacing itself toward another championship at the expense of the team Pierce and Garnett left Boston for. Allen's sweet shooting helped Miami win the first two games; Pierce's and Garnett's immeasurable fire has only aided in yielding one victory.

Miami is on the cusp of a fourth straight Eastern Conference Finals appearance; Brooklyn is one loss away from finally realizing Pierce and Garnett aren't enough.

It's funny how things work out sometimes.


The Last Laugh

MIAMI, FL - MAY 6: Ray Allen #34 of the Miami Heat stretches before Game One of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against the Brooklyn Nets during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on May 6, 2014 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expre
Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

There is no way the Nets are going to beat the Heat.

"Obviously, the series is not over," Johnson said after Game 4, per Newsday's Barbara Barker.

Yes it is, Joe. Yes it is.

The Nets aren't going to win three straight games against the Heat. It's not going to happen. Maybe they force a Game 6. Maybe, by some act of basketball gods, they force a Game 7. But they're not going to win this series.

Allen and his teammates will move on to the Eastern Conference Finals and face the Indiana Pacers or Washington Wizards. They will continue playing for another championship. Pierce, Garnett and the Nets will bow out, falling well short of expectations, the two aging vets wondering what could have been as they near retirement.

Unlike them, Allen won't have to wonder much of anything. He left the Celtics, he deserted Garnett and Pierce, to chase championships. He's chasing championships. He's won a championship.

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 25:  Paul Pierce #34 and Kevin Garnett #2 of the Brooklyn Nets look on from the bench in the first half against the Toronto Raptors in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Barclays Cen
Elsa/Getty Images

Garnett remained in Boston alongside Pierce. He ignored interest from teams like the San Antonio Spurs for an extra year's worth of coming up short Boston. 

To his credit, Allen won't take public pleasure in any of this, yet he has to understand what it means.

What Pierce and Garnett did was never wrong. Staying in Boston was their right, maybe an obligation, in their view. But what Allen did was never wrong either.

One, possibly going on two championships later, it feels more right than remaining in Boston ever could have.



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