Perhaps we didn’t properly appreciate Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, but the 2008 Celtics felt like a turning point.
The Spurs and five-deep Pistons aside, title teams had been defined by two stars in recent years. Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq and Kobe Bryant. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
But Boston successfully integrated three stars: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen – on the court.
Off the court, it was another story.
If you thought Pierce was stopping at the Nets, think again. He also threw plenty of fire are Ray Allen (and some of his younger Wizards teammates, whom he thinks would benefit from a kick in the pants).
Pierce still engages in group texts with former Celtics teammates (and coach) Doc Rivers, Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Big Baby Davis, but hasn’t talked to Ray Allen since he bolted from Boston to Miami in the summer of 2012.
Though much has been made of it, Pierce said, people don’t understand he wasn’t all that close to Allen to begin with.
“It was a weird relationship,” Pierce conceded. “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.
“I called him on it. I said, ‘Man, Ray, we support all your stuff but when we ask you, you don’t come to ours.’ I remember when Rondo re-signed with Boston, we had a little dinner at a restaurant and Ray didn’t show up.
“I know Ray probably didn’t like Rondo that much, but it wasn’t a fact of not liking somebody. You don’t have to like everybody you play with — it’s a matter of showing support.
“Rondo probably didn’t like Ray either, but he came to Ray’s functions to show, ‘Hey, we’re together in this.’
“It’s not a bad thing with Ray. We had a great relationship on the court. But even the year we won it, after a game we’d say, ‘Let’s go have something to eat and have a night with the older guys.’ We’d get there and it would be me, Kevin and Sam (Cassell), but no Ray. In a lot of ways, me, Sam and Kevin were our Big Three.
“It just got to the point where it was, ‘That’s Ray.’ No hard feelings. Everyone made such a big deal of us not talking after we left, but there really wasn’t much there.”
This sheds light on why the Celtics treated Allen so harshly he signed with the Heat. It also casts doubt on Rivers’ assertion that the trio will repair their relationship.
Repair to what?
It sounds as if only the thrill of winning kept the relationship going, but that’s no longer in place to fortify it.
Which is fine.
Team camaraderie is great and important, but not everyone gets along with their coworkers. It’s sometimes a matter of just getting past those personal differences and getting the job done – and Allen, Pierce and Garnett did that. Pierce even initially tried to take a middle road when Allen left.
Now, though, all bets are off. He isn’t equating Cassell to Allen on the court, but by using the phrase “Big Three,” Pierce is definitely minimizing Allen’s importance. Pierce could have simply said he and Garnett got along better with Cassell. But because Big Three has become such a renowned moniker, Pierce is redefining where Allen stood on that title team.
Just in case that lights a fire under Allen, he could still sign with a team tomorrow and be eligible for the playoffs. The Bulls or Raptors will play Pierce’s Wizards in the first round.