Ray Allen, 41, has reached out to the Bucks and Celtics about making a comeback (Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports)
Although it would be a sweet storybook ending to see the NBA’s greatest 3-point shooter donning a green and white uniform one final time, I’m afraid there’s no room for a Ray Allen comeback in Boston.
For a young up-and-coming team that continues to steadily climb towards the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference, the Celtics are a team that’s better off without Allen.
Allen, 41, told the Hartford Courant he’s reached out to the Celtics and the Bucks about a comeback – a report that left me torn as I asked myself ‘is seeing Ray Allen back in Boston best for the Celtics or best for Ray Allen?’
Only five players have played in the NBA at the age of 41 – Bob Cousy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Robert Parish, Kevin Willis, and Dikembe Mutombo.
Cousy’s – the only guard on the list – final season was cut short when he attempted to make a comeback as a player/coach. Abdul-Jabbar averaged 10 points in 22.9 minutes in his final season (1988-89), Mutumbo’s 1.2 blocks per game average for two seasons (2007-09) helped extend his career to the age of 42 and Parish scored 4.8 points in 16.7 minutes a night for the Hornets at age 41. Willis averaged 3.4 points in 7.8 minutes and eventually became the oldest player in NBA history when he retired at age 44 with the Bulls (2006-07).
If there’s anyone who could become the sixth 41 year-old and first guard to play valuable minutes for a club, it’d be Allen.
However, at this stage, this young team led by coach Brad Stevens is still predicated on developing young talent into impact players. The same place where Isaiah Thomas blossomed into an All-star, where Avery Bradley became an NBA All-Defensive First Team guard, where Evan Turner was a sixth man of the year candidate and where Jae Crowder arrived as a bench warmer from the Mavericks and transformed into one of the better small forwards in the Eastern Conference.
This isn’t the place for Allen to turn back the clock for one final hurrah.
The Celtics have a lot of work to do this season and it starts with strengthening their young backcourt. With Turner out of the mix (now playing with the Trail Blazers), guys like Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, and R.J. Hunter have plenty of growing to do this season. All three will be fighting for more minutes, bringing back Allen at this point in his career is a move that will stunt their growth and it’s not a move that would significantly improve the team, so why make it?
He hasn’t played since the 2013-14 season – when he averaged a career-low 9.6 points in 26.5 minutes a game. Don’t expect him to do the same in 2016 in an decreased role. Also, don’t let Allen fool you when he said he wants to “help where they have good young talent.” That’s not his sole motive.
As valuable as he was for the Celtics (2007-2012) – and he was extremely valuable – it was Allen’s ego that led to his decision to sign with the Heat. After losing his starting job to Bradley, watching Rajon Rondo emerge as a top-3 option on offense and seeing the Celtics sign Jason Terry – another 3-point specialist, Allen was fed up and went to a team where he knew he had a better shot at winning another title.
After five seasons as a member of the Celtics’ new ‘Big 3’ alongside Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, Allen played his last game as a Celtic in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat. He turned down a two-year contract to stay in Boston and signed with the rival Heat for less money.
Garnett told the media “I don’t have Ray’s number anymore” and said he didn’t want to communicate with him. Pierce was “hurt” by his decision and as of 2015, he says he still hasn’t spoken to Allen since he bolted for Miami. And when the time comes for all three players to have their numbers retired in Boston — Pierce will be the first, Garnett will follow but the jury is still out on Allen, due to the manner in which he left.
A Boston comeback will increase his chances of seeing the league’s most-storied franchise hoist his number above the parquet – a thought that was definitely riding in the back of his mind when he contacted team officials this summer.
Allen is a quiet, classy professional but like all great players — he has an ego. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but right now, for a team with young players on the verge of possibly reaching their full potential — Boston just isn’t the place for him.
Just last season, Steph Curry — who also set the single-season record for most 3-pointers made (402) — became the first NBA player to lead the league in 3-pointers for four consecutive seasons, and in some circles has already been crowned the best 3-point shooter of all-time — a narrative that must have been driving Allen insane. It’s helped fuel his motivation to make a comeback, and in his mind if he can return as a Celtic — even better.
He wants to play, pat his stats as the 3-point shooting king and revoke any doubt that his No. 20 won’t be hanging above the parquet when he eventually rides off into the sunset for good. But the Celtics are not in a position to dish out valuable minutes to a veteran who’s looking to add to his 2,973 3-pointers — a record that would most likely reach the 3,000-mark if he’s able to make a comeback at the start of the regular season.
Curry, who’s ranked 19th all-time in 3-pointers made (1,593), still has a ways to go before reaching Allen’s 2,973 and depending on how his career pans out health-wise, he may never catch the 3-point shooting king. Either way, Allen believes he’s in great shape and is ready to add one final chapter to his legacy.
Hopefully he’ll get that chance. 3,000 3-pointers in one NBA career would be a remarkable feat, however, there just isn’t enough space for him in Boston. But where ever he ends up, it’ll be fun to see him knocking down 3-pointers again and if one day we see his number retired in Boston, well, that’ll be great to see too.