When Danny Ainge assembled the Big Three back in 2007, it was assumed the Celtics were looking at a three-year window to win a championship. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce decided to get that out of the way immediately. After they beat the Lakers in 2008, every season after that was described as the “last shot” for the Big Three. Four years and another Finals appearance later, and the aging Celtics were able to push the Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Championship. Is it now officially over?
From an age standpoint, it seems likely. Garnett and Allen are free agents. Both seem like they intend to play next year, but you never know what could transpire over the course of the offseason. In all likelihood Garnett will either retire or return to Boston for another season. It seems less likely that the Celtics will bring Allen back, especially since he reportedly struggled to get along with Rajon Rondo this season.
“I think there’s no question that the relationship (between Rondo and Allen) was strained over this year,” Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix said during an interview with WEEI Monday. “How strained is the key, and it’s still a little bit unclear. There was some friction between those two. I think that could play a role in Ray’s decision not to come back.
“Now, I agree, I think that Boston probably wasn’t going to bring him back anyway, you’re right, it’s Avery Bradley’s job and Ray isn’t coming back to the Celtics to be a bench player — especially when he can be a bench player on a team that might be more likely to win a championship. But I think the relationship over the last year between Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo soured. Now, I’m not entirely clear as to how bad it got. But certainly I know that there was some legitimate, palpable friction between those two players and I think that will ultimately affect his decision in free agency.”
That’s not shocking. Allen is more laid back and reserved whereas Rondo has been described as a difficult personality to manage. When Bradley took Ray’s starting job with tremendous defensive play while Allen was out with an injured ankle, it’s no secret that he was unhappy about it. Of the Big Three, Allen was already the most likely to not be back in Boston next season. Friction between him and Rondo only makes it a more realistic possibility.
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