Although Miami has done a pretty solid job retooling after LeBron's departure, bringing back a veteran on his very last legs may be a little more difficult. At 39 years old with 18 seasons in the books, it's hard to imagine Ray Allen coming back for anything but a serious title run.
Are the Heat capable of making that run? Possibly, but it's fair to say that there are multiple teams who appear more likely to win a title next year.
That puts both Miami and Allen in a difficult situation. If Allen doesn't retire and decides to give it another go, why not join LeBron in Cleveland? After all, it worked out before.
Here's what Allen told reporters, per Mark Murphy of The Boston Globe:
"No," he said when asked about the assumption that he would return as a Cavalier. "There’s so much speculation about me going to Cleveland. I haven’t even decided where I will play. Obviously LeBron and I are great friends, and James Jones and I are really close. ...
"It’s just what they start talking about on TV — where I’m supposed to go. I have not leaned towards Cleveland," said Allen. "I have not made any mention of going to Cleveland. These last two months were about me physically, and deciding whether I want to play again."
Allen doesn't appear to be in a rush to make his choice, which is probably wise since he'll be able to see exactly how the landscape is without any surprises. If LeBron was the first real domino in free agency, Allen seems content with being the last.
Ray Allen update: He says today no need to wait from some secret inside source, that when he reaches decision on future he'll just say it.— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) August 11, 2014
It's important to note that Miami has noting to offer Allen outside of a veteran's minimum deal. If Allen wants one last good payday, perhaps a team with their biannual exception available (like the Houston Rockets) or cap room could lure him away.
While it seems unlikely that Allen would choose a destination with lower title odds just to make a few extra bucks, you have to weigh everything. The main point here, however, is that Allen will have his choice of teams at the minimum salary, essentially.
Here's Ira Winderman from the Sun Sentinel with more on Allen's decision:
When I spoke to Ray last season about a decision to continue playing, he told me he wished he could wait until September every year for such a confirmation, since that is when he best can tell where his body and his mind stand. So the desire to put off such a decision this year is nothing more than Ray sticking to his plan.
But I also sense that the Heat have moved on, based on the fact that there is absolutely nothing left to offer other than the minimum, while Mario Chalmers has been signed at $4 million and Udonis Haslem at $2.7 million. I just don't sense it ended well last season, wonder if Ray (and perhaps LeBron James) wished that Erik Spoelstra had moved Allen into the starting lineup earlier in the NBA Finals, rather than waiting for the fifth and final game against the Spurs.
Unlike others who have been wed to specific cities over their careers, Ray has been on the move so much in his career that I believe another city would merely be part of the journey.
While it's not a bad idea for the Heat to chase such an effective shooting specialist off the bench like Allen, especially given Dwyane Wade's health issues, it might not be the worst idea to go in a different direction, either.
Miami already has an intriguing young wing in James Ennis who should be developed and receive playing time, and perhaps adding another minimum player with a higher ceiling than Allen would make some sense.
That's not to say Miami shouldn't welcome Allen with open arms if he decides to come, but rather that it's not the end of the world if he doesn't. You know what you're getting from Allen, and his addition as a role player off the bench probably won't swing the pendulum much either way.
Miami is wise to leave a roster spot open should Allen want to return, but they shouldn't necessarily plan for that happening. Allen should be hotly recruited as time goes on, and again, Miami has limited assets and appeal at this point.
Here's more from Allen, via Murphy:
Instead, Allen is weighing family concerns and a major question of whether he wants to retire in prime physical shape, or whether he wants to chase his third NBA title. That will most likely mean leaving Miami, his city of the last two years. Allen said he has not talked with Heat general manager Pat Riley, or any other member of the Heat organization, about returning.
"A lot have called. Doc [Rivers] called earlier in the summer," he said. "A lot of teams want to be able to get me at the veteran’s minimum. I still have an ego, too. I still have a service to provide, and teams still have to pay me what I feel my presence is worth. I have to take that into consideration, if it’s worth putting my body through what it will take over 82 games."
Miami does have the advantages of being where Allen lives now and having a familiar coach in Erik Spoelstra. Still, there's little to gain from Miami putting on the full-court press for Allen, as losing a free-agent battle for a big name won't help in terms of perception for the future.
The play here is to quietly leave the light on and keep one roster spot empty, but to treat Allen like a non-essential piece. That's more in line with what he is at this point in his career than his name and reputation would suggest anyhow.