Should Ray Stay or Should Ray Go?

His poor shooting in the NBA Finals is a big reason why the Boston Celtics are not hosting a parade this afternoon, but he wants to stay. He said so in April and he said it again on Thursday night. So the question becomes …. Should the Celtics re-sign Ray Allen?

The answer to that question is a layup, much like some of the bunnies Allen missed against the Lakers over the past fortnight: Yes, the Boston Celtics should bring Ray Allen back. In fact, so long as Allen can be inked for just two years, the Celtics MUST bring Allen back and if that requires the Celts to pay 125 cents on the dollar, so be it.

The Celtics really don’t have much choice in the matter if they want to be competitive in 2011 and I don’t see why they can’t be competitive if Allen returns. The logic here is really quite simple. If Allen walks, the Celts don’t have any cap flexibility needed to go out and sign his replacement. So the options are giving the job to Tony Allen, using the team’s “mid level” salary exception on a replacement, or handing the job to a rookie or minimum salary vet. The first and the third options are hardly options at all and the mid-level exception would be best used for adding depth elsewhere.

So the moral here is the Celts need Allen because his departure would either leave a gaping hole or hamstring Boston’s attempt to add another piece. And let’s be clear here, up until his collapse against LA, Allen had a pretty solid year. His “true” shooting percentage was excellent and his offensive and defensive “ratings” were right in line with his career averages. Sure, he slumped at times, but he also played EXCELLENT defense during the playoffs and if you don’t believe me, go ask Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant. Kobe, in particular, is still pulling shards of Ray from his ass.

So it really comes down to money and years. Clearly, Allen is in line for a pay cut. And some think the haircut will be huge, knocking perhaps two-thirds off the top and making Allen a six million dollar player. Obviously, if the Celts could get Allen back for six million, they should do it tomorrow. And if it costs more? Well, I am in the camp that says the Celts should be willing to go above market just so long as it doesn’t lock them in beyond 2012. And here is why.

The Celts window on winning a championship has probably closed but that doesn’t mean they can’t be a solid team in the East over the next two years. In fact, if the Celts add an interesting draftee and a competent mid-level exception to Rondo/Allen/Pierce/ KG/Perkins/Baby, there is no reason next year’s team can’t be pretty good. Maybe not a 60-win team, but perhaps a 55-win team and as they proved this year, who knows what can happen once the playoffs begin. And what happens without Ray in 2011? Well, I think you are talking about a team that might struggle to win 48 games.

And following 2011?

Well, Pierce will be an unrestricted free agent if he isn’t extended this off-season. And a lockout looms next Summer so there might not even be a 2012 season. In fact, I don’t think there will be one and certainly not an 82-gamer. That being said, what does it hurt to bring Allen back? If there is a work stoppage, Allen will only be on the court for a year and if there isn’t a lockout, his contract will expire after 2012 along with KG and everybody else other than Rondo, this year’s draft pick, next year’s pick and perhaps a signing or two along the way. And that is how Boston has to set this all up …. They need to clear all this dead wood at the end of 2012 so they can rebuild with tons of cap room and Rajon Rondo running things.

So if the Celts have to pay Allen a little above market to get to that point successfully, so be it. I realize it’s not my money and there are luxury tax implications here, but the Celts just played 12 home playoff games. TWELVE. That is 220,000 tickets at who knows what a ticket. Add in concessions and the Celts 2010 income statement is dripping in black ink. So why not spend a little of the largesse on 2011 and Ray Allen?   

I am confident that the Celts can make this happen as I don’t think there are any other teams out there willing to throw Allen three years or more than 10 million per year. Yes, I would prefer to have Allen for six or seven. But if it takes nine or ten, make the deal. And if Allen decides 2/20 is a slight, then I guess the window has shut and the next two years are going to be spent wandering the desert.

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