Tuesday night fans fill American Airlines Arena to see the Miami Heat receive their championship rings and open the season against the Boston Celtics, but for Heat newcomer Ray Allen — who changed addresses during the offseason —the reaction will be how his former team receives him.
Allen, who spent the last five seasons with the Celtics and won a title with the team in 2008, spurned them by signing with Heat in the July after helping the Celtics took the Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals.
After signing with the Heat, jabs started going back and forth between Allen and the Celtics. The Celtics were angry that Allen went to rivals for less money and Allen was upset with a diminishing role in the Celtics offense.
Allen has tried to downplay the events of the summer by viewing the season opener as another game on the schedule.
“Every game you have butterflies. It can be Game 20, Game 50, Game 80, going into the playoffs,” he said. “You have that normal anxiousness, that nervousness, so you think of every small thing to prepare for. I don’t think it’s any different from what I’ve normally felt.”
The uneasiness that everyone in the building and fans from home will be paying attention to is pregame greeting between Allen and his former teammates. Allen has a positive attitude about seeing his former teammates, despite not speaking to them since he left Boston.
“When I see Paul (Pierce), I’m not going to be angry at him or anyone else. I’m happy. I’m excited. I look forward to seeing all those guys.”
When Pierce was asked to explain why Allen and he have not spoken, he failed to do so.
“I don’t know. I can’t answer that. I don’t know,” Pierce said. “We’re not going to make this into a Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and (Rajon) Rondo thing. Right now, my focus is on playing in a game versus Miami. Everything that’s happened has already happened. He’s here. He’s happy to be here.”
For once the attention will not be solely focused on Lebron James, who understands the obvious tension when playing against your former team. James returned to play his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, for the first time in 2010-11 after taking his talents to South Beach the previous summer in free agency.
“I have a sense it means a lot,” James said. “It means it’s going against your old team. I was there two years ago when I first played Cleveland, and I wanted to win that game. As teammates, we’ve got to try and help him do that.”
Celtics head coach Doc Rivers admits that it will be strange playing against Allen, but is still bothered by questions regarding the former Celtic.
“But we’ll get over it pretty quick. … He was good and he was good for us. He helped us win a title. Now, he’s on the team that beat us. … I’m still tired of answering (questions). I don’t know what you want me to say. He went to the other team.”
Allen still recollects the great moments with the Celtics and will never forget them.
“You guys think I have some type of animosity or bad blood, I don’t,” Allen said. “I’ve said it time and time again. We shared, in my opinion, probably the most special thing you can do in sports – going all the way to the top. That’s always going to be No. 1 in my heart.”
Allen will have the opportunity to add to his NBA record of 2,718 three-pointers made and 6,788 three-pointers attempted Tuesday night, but the overall focus will be how involved Allen is involved with the offense playing alongside Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and James.