In a free-agent season that has been as fluid as any in recent memory, Ray Allen added another surprise by electing to bolt the Boston Celtics for the champion Miami Heat, giving LeBron James and Co. another perimeter weapon that strengthens their repeat quest.
Allen, who holds the NBA record for three point shots with 2,716, visited the Heat on Thursday and did not declare until late Friday that he would leave Boston, where he helped win a title in 2008 during his five-year run there.
He must have really wanted to another shot at the title; Allen took less than half of what the Celtics could pay him to join the Heat — the mini mid-level exception of $3 million.
Heat owner Micky Arison tweeted the agreement just after 9:30 p.m., or about 2:30 a.m. Saturday in Europe, where Arison has been for several days.
”I was just woken up with great news,” Arison wrote. ”Welcome to the family.”
The Associated Press reported that Arison got the word from Heat president Pat Riley, who made Allen the team’s top free-agent priority – especially in recent days. Allen, who will be 37 this month, a went to dinner with Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra, team executive Alonzo Mourning and others Thursday night, then left Friday to presumably decide his future.
Hours later, the choice was made. Allen’s agent, James Tanner, confirmed the decision to the AP not long after Arison’s tweet.
Allen, who made a career-best 45 percent of his 3-point attempts this past season, cannot officially sign until Wednesday because of the league’s moratorium.
Allen becomes the latest player to be sold by Riley on the notion of sacrifice since the blockbuster summer of 2010. The Heat convinced James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all to take less money than they could have made elsewhere in that off-season, so there would be enough room left to add players role players.
The approach clearly worked. Next fall, the Heat will raise a championship banner, and Allen will be with them for the title defense.
”HeatNation continues to grow,” Wade wrote on Twitter late Friday night. And James added, ”please welcome our newest teammate Ray Allen” with the added hashtag of ”Wow.”
Wade and James both were involved on some level in the recruitment of Allen. James took to Twitter and Facebook in recent days to let his millions of followers know how much he wanted to see Allen in a Heat uniform, and Wade tweeted on Wednesday that the next day – the one where Allen was visiting – would be a big one for the franchise.
In the end, it appeared that the biggest push – again – came from Riley, who said before free agency started that Miami had identified ”five or six” clear targets to add to the roster.
He never specifically said Allen, and given how James was letting the secret out on Twitter anyway, Riley didn’t have to say anything else.
New Orleans Hornets guard Jarrett Jack asked his followers in a tweet about an hour after the Allen story broke if he was ”wrong for thinking ray allen is a traitor” for signing with Miami. Even NFL stars were reacting Friday night. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick used the following hashtags on Twitter to describe his reaction to Allen’s decision: ”loaded,” ”finalpiece” and ”notfair.”
There’s probably more than a few people in Boston who would agree.
Miami is still hoping to add at least one more piece through free agency, and is expected to meet this weekend with Marcus Camby and Rashard Lewis.
Earlier this week, the Celtics reportedly agreed on a $15 million, three-year deal with shooting guard Jason Terry. But Boston also wanted to keep Allen. Didn’t happen.