By Yagev Levi
“Anything is possible!” screamed Kevin Garnett as the Celtics celebrated their 2008 NBA Championship more than ten years ago. The ’08 Celtics won their first championship since 1986, and secured the franchise’s 17th NBA title. Following what is widely known as “the most dramatic NBA turnaround ever,” the Celtics’ Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen, as well as Rajon Rondo, led the 66 win-Boston Celtics to a 4-2 NBA Finals win against the Los Angeles Lakers in their first season together. To say the least, Boston was lit.
Many things have happened in those ten years. The Big Three stayed together from 2007-2012 when Ray Allen left for the Miami Heat, ultimately beating the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals the next year and winning the NBA title. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were then traded two years later in 2014 to the Brooklyn Nets in what is believed to be the biggest fleece in NBA trade history, where the Celtics ultimately received 4 first-round picks from the Nets in return for the aging studs. Rondo was traded later in the 2014 season to the Dallas Mavericks and all remnants of the ’08 Celtics were completely gone.
What ultimately caused the divide between Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo was the lack of communication and what ultimately felt like the lack of respect when Ray Allen left for the Miami Heat. Furthermore, Ray Allen’s recently released tell-all book From the Outside: My Journey through Life and the Game I Love, has shed light on the intense locker room battles between him and Rajon Rondo.
Ray, for the most part, dug his own grave when he decided to leave the Celtics for Lebron’s Miami Heat team who had knocked the Celtics out of the playoffs the year earlier. As one could easily expect, that generated a lot of resent from the fans as today many of us Celtics fans have mixed opinions about Ray. The fans though, appear to be the least of Ray’s problems. When Allen left for Miami, he did nothing to notify his fellow teammates. Paul, KG, and Rondo all found out about his move just like we did, from the media. Astonishingly, this served as just the cherry on top of the heated relationship between Ray and former teammates Garnett and Rondo.
In Ray’s book he highlights how there were early signs during his tenure with the Celtics, that him and KG wouldn’t get along too well. Both were intense players with just as intense personalities. Ray recalls how during the Celtics trip to Rome in 2007, he was dribbling in front of his locker during the Celtics’ preseason trip, something Ray had done his entire career, which annoyed Garnett, who told him, “No, you’re not going to do that.” Ray responded “You can’t tell me what to do,” as teammates looked on. “You do what you do, and I do what I do.” And that’s how it started. In an even more extreme situation when the team went out to dinner at a steakhouse before the season started, where they both spoke about their roots and the struggle of making it to the NBA. When dinner was over, Ray asked for the check. Garnett then exclaimed, “No, I tip way better than him, so you better give me the check.” Garnett had no idea how much Allen tipped as it was the first time they’d gone to dinner together. Allen didn’t argue but he noted how KG “felt the need to be seen as being superior” to him.
On the other end, there was Ray’s relationship with Rondo. In the beginning, their relationship budded into one of mentor and apprentice where Ray even describes Rondo as a little brother. But, things began to unravel after the 2008 championship. Even after all this time, Ray still can’t quite grasp what caused their relationship to fall apart. Ray details several incidents that could have led to their dynamic ending in tatters. Perhaps where it all started was in the 2010-2011 season when in a team meeting, Allen tells about how Rondo told his teammates, “I carried all of you to the championship in 2008.”Ray continues, “The rest of the team, almost in unison, responded, ‘You what?’” Rondo began to explain how everyone on the team had problems with him, and then when Ray told him, “None of us had issues with you,” Rondo replied, “You did, too. You told me I was the reason we were going to be traded.” Many more incidents followed in the next couple seasons but their heated nature ultimately culminated in a game against the Indiana Pacers in April of 2012. There was arguing on the court between Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass and their argument spilled over to the locker room. Coach Doc Rivers intervened to talk to the team as a whole, when Rondo blurted out something about Allen, leading to their own locker room fight. Rondo started claiming Allen was jealous of him after being moved to the bench for Avery Bradley to start. That is when Allen responded to Rondo, telling him he needed to “stop bullshitting everyone on the team,” Rondo replied back, “I’m going to get your ass out of here this summer.” Later on the team plane, Ray approached Rondo to see if they could bury the hatchet but instead, Rondo showed no intention of doing so and told Allen, “I got 11 games to play with you, and that’s it.”
Today, Ray’s relationship with Paul Pierce seems to be in the best shape of the three but considering Ray didn’t even make it to Paul’s retirement ceremony, there is still a lot that needs to be settled between Ray and his former teammates. I hope that one day they will be able to settle everything and celebrate everything they accomplished on the Celtics. Together, they ended a 22 year NBA title drought, led the franchise to its the third highest regular season win total, and completed one of the biggest turnarounds ever. They really were a special Celtics team and they remain a favorite of mine to this day.