Even as he enters the Basketball Hall of Fame, Ray Allen will receive few congratulations from the 2008 Celtics. Most of the problems between Allen and his former teammates stem from him leaving Boston for Miami in 2012.
Allen on his final year with the Celtics, via NBC Sports Boston:
There were parts throughout the season where I was starting to feel this type of resentment toward me on the floor. Other people would tell me at first, and I would ignore it, because I don’t like people getting into my team business, because this is my teammate. But people would always say, “He looks you off. When you come off a screen, he sees you and he doesn’t pass you the ball when you’re open.”
At first, my family would say it, because they watch intently, and they they know the game. And so I just said, “Listen, because you have said this before about other guys, but I don’t engage in that.” So then, I started paying attention to it, because I started noticing it.
And I went to Doc. And I asked Doc, and I said, “Doc, I think dude is looking me off, and he’s not passing me the ball. And I don’t know why, but I’m coming off, I’m running the plays that you’re drawing up, and he’s not passing me the ball. And he’ll shoot it or he’ll go in the other direction.”
And Doc’s response was, “I know. We talked about it as a coaching staff.”
I was like, “Wow. So you knew this whole time and you didn’t say anything. You didn’t address it to me and, more importantly, you’re not addressing him about it.”
I think his response or his way of handling it was, this is when he wanted to bring me off the bench.
Remember, this is just Allen’s point of view. Rondo and Rivers could recall events differently.
Rondo has previously implied Allen shouldn’t be viewed as credible, though it’s also worth acknowledging how stubborn Rondo can be. Maybe Rondo did this. Maybe he didn’t. It’s at least believable.
It’s also worth emphasizing Allen said his family previously accused other teammates of doing this. Maybe Allen has just happened to play with teammates that selfish. Or maybe his family is too suspicious and that rubbed off on Allen.
But if we take Allen’s account at face value, it’s a good reminder coaching in the NBA is difficult. Bringing Allen off the bench behind Avery Bradley, which limited Allen’s playing time with Rondo, contributed to Allen feeling unwelcome in Boston then leaving for Miami. On the other hand, confronting Rondo could have led to even worse problems for the Celtics. Rivers and Rondo already had tension in their relationship (that later worsened).
There isn’t always a good answer.
Players sometimes have agendas that interfere with winning. It’s on the coaching to manage that.
It wouldn’t be fair to Allen that he got demoted because a teammate was being selfish, but the NBA isn’t always fair. That might have been Boston’s best strategy for maximizing winning.