Ray Allen's decision to leave the Celtics and sign with the Heat in 2012 was the first of a series of dominoes that finds Boston embracing a full-scale rebuild this season. Following Allen's departure, a season-ending knee injury to Rajon Rondo, and a one-and-done run in the 2013 playoffs, the Celtics decided to finally pull the plug on an era of contending that began in 2008, facilitating coach Doc Rivers' move to the Clippers and trading Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to the Nets.
The decisions made sense for all the involved parties; Boston gets a fresh start, Rivers gets a ready-made team to run and the ex-Celtics players get to write a final chapter to their respective careers on a loaded Brooklyn roster.
The only hiccup in this narrative? Garnett and Pierce didn't mince words when Allen decided to move on from Boston to Miami, stoking the Celtics/Heat rivalry at the expense of their former teammate.
LeBron James -- who is indebted to Ray Allen for the rest of his life after the Game 6 miracle -- has made it clear that he hasn't forgotten what the former Celtics said about his teammate.
ESPN.com reports that James, who himself left Cleveland for Miami, has pointed out the after-the-fact hypocrisy in the criticism of Allen.
"I think the first thing I thought was, 'Wow, Ray got killed for leaving Boston, and now these guys are leaving Boston,'" James said. "I think it's OK; I didn't mind it. But there were a couple guys who basically [expletive] on Ray for leaving, and now they're leaving.
"That's the nature of our business, man. I don't know what Boston was going through at the end of the day. I know Ray had to make the best decision for him and his family and his career. Doc, KG and Paul did that as well. You can't criticize someone who does something that's best for their family."
CBSSports.com reported that Garnett replied Thursday: "Tell LeBron to worry about Miami. He has nothing to do with Celtic business."
Allen did take a bit of a beating. At Boston's 2012 Media Day, Garnett told reporters that he lost Ray Allen's phone number and that he "[wasn't] trying to communicate" with his former teammate. When the Celtics and Heat played in November, Allen famously attempted to high-five Garnett, only to receive a cold shoulder and be completely ignored.
Pierce, meanwhile, said that he was "very surprised" that Allen left and that the decision "definitely hurts," saying in April that he still wasn't ready to talk to Allen about it.
Finally, Rivers opined that Allen "absolutely" made the wrong choice, that Allen wanted a bigger role on offense and that Allen was "bothered" by the fact that he didn't start for Boston.
Although both Rivers' departure and the Garnett/Pierce blockbuster trade possessed lots of moving parts that created emotional divorces, James is fundamentally correct: Rivers, Garnett and Pierce all made the same calculation as Allen, just one year later. Rivers has admitted that he didn't have the stomach for a rebuild, and Garnett possessed a no-trade clause in his contract that would have allowed him to follow through on his February declaration that he wanted to "retire a Celtic."
Much of the anger towards Allen emanated from the fact that he took less money to play for Miami, the team that had just eliminated Boston from the playoffs. Had he made a cash grab for some anonymous team in the Western Conference, he would have gotten off easier. Again, though, all of the former Celtics can be accused of doing the same thing. Rivers didn't land with some middling outfit: he now runs the stacked Clippers, a team that many now consider to be the favorites in the Western Conference following the injury to Russell Westbrook. As for Garnett and Pierce, they now make up 40 percent of a Brooklyn starting lineup composed entirely of 2012 and 2013 All-Stars, playing for an owner whose payroll exceeds $100 million (before a monster luxury tax bill is assessed). They're not exactly slumming it.
With a year of hindsight, Rivers, Garnett and Pierce do look like a group of guys who realized that remaining competitive would require them to swallow their anger -- and their Celtics pride -- to learn a lesson from from the league's best.