The Celtics future is very much in flux. Everyone sort of realized that after their Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Heat and the fact that two of the three of the celebrated Big Three of 2008 are free agents.
No one is quite sure what will happen with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Paul Pierce is a Celtics lifer and Rajon Rondo -- despite midseason rumors -- is the future of the team. It is hard to figure where Garnett and Allen fit into that future.
Garnett is the heart and soul of the team. Pierce is the lifer. Allen... well, Allen has always been sort of the odd man out. Where Pierce and Garnett were boisterous and stuck their chests out with every big win during the last five years. Allen is not that kind of person. He is the sweetest shooter in the league and a guy who is more likely to duck his head and get his work done.
While his shot is still as gorgeous as ever, there are plenty of questions about the 36-year-old shooting guard (he will be 37 by the time the 2013 season begins). Allen is having ankle surgery Wednesday to repair bone spurs and nagging injuries that plagued him throughout the playoffs. His production was way down as he scored 14.2 points per game, his fewest since his rookie year in Milwaukee back in 1997. His shooting percentages were still very respectable -- 45.8 percent from the floor and 45.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Allen can still contribute somewhere if a team is willing to take a bit of a risk on him. Allen is looking for a multi-year deal with a contender according to sources and it looks like he is the most expendable of Boston's big three at the moment.
Not helping matters is that Allen may be somewhat reluctant to re-sign in Boston because of the team's reported attempts to trade him and, possibly, because of a rift between him and budding star Rajon Rondo.
"I think there's no question that the relationship was strained over this year," Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix told WEEI in Boston (h/t Celtics Life). "How strained is the key, and it's still a little bit unclear. There was some friction between those two. I think that could play a role in Ray's decision not to come back.
"Now, I agree, I think that Boston probably wasn't going to bring him back anyway, you're right, it's Avery Bradley's job and Ray isn't coming back to the Celtics to be a bench player, especially when he can be a bench player on a team that might be more likely to win a championship. But I think the relationship over the last year between Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo soured. Now, I'm not entirely clear as to how bad it got. But certainly I know that there was some legitimate, palpable friction between those two players and I think that will ultimately affect his decision in free agency."
It is quite the interesting dilemma. It was clear at the end of the season that Boston had extremely high hopes for Avery Bradley and are grooming him to be the shooting guard. Allen was coming off the bench at the end of the season as he worked his way back from his ankle injury. He came off the bench for four games and came off the bench for the first eight games of the Playoffs. And there were reports that he was not thrilled by this prospect.
So it seems Allen is ready to move on.
But this rift with Rondo is a new development. And it might be the final straw sealing Allen's departure from Beantown.
Rondo is the heir apparent to the Celtics throne and it seems like Boston is beginning to shape the team for him. If he and Allen do not work well together, then it might be time to move him on. It appears both sides know it is coming too.
If that is how things go, then it is truly the end of an interesting era in Celtics basketball.
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