We knew Ray Allen's departure from Boston was something less than amicable. Allen dropped hints about how he had been forced out of Boston, meanwhile Doc Rivers made it known that Allen refused to return any of his or Danny Ainge's phone calls. What should have been a pure business decision (Allen wanted more money and more playing time, the Celtics wanted to get younger and more athletic) has gotten remarkably personal, not least because of where Allen signed.
The NBA knows where its bread is buttered, and scheduled Boston and Miami for opening night. And bookending a game which only proved what we all knew-the Heat are the class of the East, and it's not even close-were a pair of moments that provided all the drama needed to kick off one of the league's best rivalries.
When Allen first checked in late in the first, he wandered over to the Boston bench to greet some of his old co-workers. Desultory handshakes with the Celtics coaches, and a pat on the shoulder for Kevin Garnett-who determinedly ignored him.
"No, he didn't react," Allen said. "But you guys know KG. You guys know KG. I ask you, did you expect him to react? I don't take anything from it. You know, Kevin, he's an intense competitor. On the bench, he's in a different world. He's in a different zone. And the five years I played with him, you just have to respect that."
The real action came in the closing seconds of the game. Perhaps angry that Dwyane Wade was driving to the basket in a game that was already decided, Rajon Rondo grabbed Wade around the neck, setting off some pushing and shoving and uncordial words.
Wade called it "a punk play," and insinuated it wouldn't be forgotten the next time these teams meet. Sadly, that's not until the end of January but it's nice to see a legit NBA rivalry where the teams physically dislike each other. It's going to be played up, sometimes unnecessarily (this column on LeBron, and LeBron only, mentions "Boston," "Celtics," "Bird," or "Russell" 24 times), but this one doesn't need massaged enmity just because they've been the two best teams in the conference for a couple years. The league's always better when two dominant franchises hate each other almost as much as everyone else hates them both.