Kevin Garnett invited four of his former teammates from the world champion 2008 Boston Celtics to join him Monday on his “Area 21” segment before TNT’s broadcast of Game 4 between the Golden State Warriors and Utah Jazz: Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins and Glen “Big Baby” Davis. Notably absent: the third member of the Celtics’ vaunted Big Three, shooting guard Ray Allen.
This is nothing new. Garnett, Pierce and the rest of the ex-Celtics have held a grudge against their former teammate ever since Allen decided to leave Boston in free agency in 2012 to join the Miami Heat — the team that eliminated the C’s in the 2011 Eastern Conference semifinals and in a seven-game war in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals. Frosty relations that began with KG losing Ray’s phone number and ignoring Allen on the sidelines have persisted, with Rondo and the rest of the Celtics reportedly deciding not to invite Allen to their upcoming 10-year title reunion. Or, evidently, to “Area 21.”
“When I parted ways with Boston, they went in their direction and obviously I went in mine,” Allen told Yahoo Sports’ Marc J. Spears during the 2013 NBA Finals.
On Monday night, the assembled ex-Celtics couldn’t avoid the elephant in the room for long. Talk eventually turned to the member of the group who wasn’t there. (And we’re not talking about Scot Pollard.)
“It was more than basketball for us… It felt like a sour breakup.”
Pierce, KG, Rondo, Big Baby & Perk share their thoughts on Ray Allen. pic.twitter.com/8JYRWmxm0i
— KG's Area 21 (@KGArea21) May 9, 2017
“People don’t understand that this is real life for us,” Garnett said. “And the situation with Ray is very sensitive. I think that when we all talked about doing this reunion tour, we was talking about guys who we consider loyal and part of this group. Just being honest, my two cents, man: when Ray decided to go to the Heat, I feel like he moved on, and he went to pursue another ring, and he got another ring. Shout out to him. And that’s it. It wasn’t no other Wizards, it wasn’t no other Heat, it wasn’t no other — it was all Celtics invited to this.”
Pierce, who recently joined Garnett and Allen in retirement, said he was hurt less by the fact that Allen turned down what was reportedly a more lucrative offer to stay in Boston so that he could head south to team up with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami than he was by “the whole way everything went down.”
“How we all came together, we talked about it, we talked every day, we hung out all the time, and then, when it was time for free agency — and to each his own in free agency […] but I thought we formed a brotherhood here in Boston, in just how we carried ourselves, not only on the court, but off the court,” Pierce said. “I just figured that if it was me leaving, or KG leaving, y’all would have been like [mimes picking up a phone], ‘Well, Rondo, Perk, Baby, this is what I’ve been thinking about.’ That was what I was hurt by: when Ray didn’t just at least give us a head’s up about it.”
Pierce’s issue — and one that Perkins and Davis also referenced — was that he didn’t feel Allen put all his cards on the table before deciding to jump ship.
“I think I would even have took it better if he had just, like, talked to us about it,” Pierce said. “I don’t know how his relationship was with [Celtics head coach] Doc [Rivers]. It was kind of souring at the time, because [second-year guard] Avery [Bradley] was getting more minutes, and so I can understand all that. But I just felt like we should’ve had a conversation, and then I think it would have settled over a little bit more. I don’t think we would have been as salty at him.
“Even though it was Miami — we hated them, we hated Miami, that was our rival, we going at it with them, LeBron and all them — I just think if we had all just talked about it, it would’ve been a little different than it is now. Now it’s uncomfortable. I haven’t talked to Ray in some years now. It’s just different.”
Perkins struck a similar note, emphasizing his problems with “not what Ray did, [but with] how he did it,” especially after spending several years together forming a bond on and off the court.
“I mean, if you feel like you wanted to go their way, you know, and do it, I just feel like he could have handled it a different way,” Perkins said. “Just a lack of communication, man, or however it was. But at the end of the day, I feel like time heals all wounds, and at the end of the day, you never know. Sometimes all it takes is for you to just see your brother on the pass-by.”
It’s been years, though, and that pass-by has yet to take place, which suggests that somebody’s going to have to take the first step toward working to reconcile this relationship. (If anybody really wants it reconciled, at least.) Perhaps unsurprisingly, Perkins sees that as Allen’s responsibility.
“At this point in time, I don’t think it’s on nobody on here to break the ice. I think it’s on Ray to break the ice,” he said. “If Ray want to make amends with anybody up here, or whatever the case, I think it’s on him to reach out and say, ‘Hey, P, I handled this wrong. We better than this.’ ‘Hey, Ticket, I handled this wrong.’ ‘Hey, Big Baby, I handled this wrong.’ ‘Hey Rondo, I handled this wrong.’ And just get it past us.”
Frankly, even if Allen was willing to take the blame for having made some mistakes in departing Boston, it seems like it might take a bit more than just saying, “I handled this wrong.” Especially given the severity of the analogy Pierce later used to describe the dissolution of relationships in which the players “shared in each other’s family lives together.”
“It was personal relationships, and I think it kind of — think about when you with a girl for so long, nine or 10 years, and you break up, it’s just like … it’s sour. It’s sour,” Pierce said. “That’s what it kind of felt like. It felt like a sour breakup. […] It almost felt like, you married and you just come home, and the wife, and the kids, and the clothes and everything is out the house. You didn’t get a note or nothing. You didn’t get an Instagram or a tweet or nothing. They just gone.”
The only one who didn’t say much during the discussion: Rondo, who rose from rookie to linchpin during that team’s tenure, and whose fractured relationship with Allen reportedly helped influence the shooter into leaving. Rondo stayed mum, prompting Perkins to crack that he was “acting like he auditioning for a coaching job or something.”
“I’m going to speak for Rondo,” Big Baby said.
“What’s up? I’m good,” Rondo replied.
None of this, and none of them, really seemed all that good, though. This seemed less like a concerted effort to move on from an issue that Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge earlier this season called “silly,” and more like a mere rehashing of previous recitations of years-old complaints.
When Ernie Johnson and the “Inside the NBA” crew tossed the broadcast back to “Area 21” after the Warriors sent the Jazz fishing for the summer, Kenny Smith asked if Allen was with the ex-Celtics, and a brief “Free Ray Allen!” chant broke out in the studio. KG and Rondo, in particular, did not seem very amused.
KG & Rondo have no interest in Ray Allen pic.twitter.com/KI7aJC3LeV
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) May 9, 2017
At the end of their crossover, “Inside the NBA” host Ernie Johnson asked Garnett if he could envision a day where “everything’s cool between you guys and Ray Allen.”
“I’d like to think so,” Garnett said. “And I’d like to think that as we grow and progress, time heals all wounds. But, you know, we’ll see. We have no ill will to Ray. Shout out to Ray and his family. Shout to him with his new restaurant and all its glory.”
Pierce even suggested on Instagram live that time might be healing that wound soon:
Paul Pierce on Instagram live just now: "we gotta call Ray… We gotta settle this"
— John Karalis ???????? (@RedsArmy_John) May 8, 2017
“But one thing we did agree upon is, when we mend the fences, Rondo’s gonna make the call,” Pierce said.
“Absolutely,” Rondo added.
Pierce laughed at that.
As for Allen, he didn’t appear to be in a laughing mood when he took to Facebook the next morning:
Ray Allen just posted this. Apparently not a fan of Area 21. pic.twitter.com/ElFsxDZa0t
— Toucher and Rich (@Toucherandrich) May 9, 2017
It sure looks like this beef will be aging a while longer.
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