The Greatest Conference Ever, They Swear

Dumb Move, Dolan

Milton Un for Grantland.com

Game of NBA Thrones, Part 2

With news coming from every corner of the basketball kingdom, it's time to hand out another batch of awards

If you missed Part 1 of my Summer NBA Review (Game of Thrones quotes handed out as awards), CLICK HERE to catch up. Here’s Part 2.

“I’m the captain. If this ship goes down, I go down with it.”
“I’m sure many captains said the same when the ship was afloat.”

Did you know that Vinny Del Negro — the same guy who was nearly fired for about a week straight in March — somehow gained power and did the lion’s share of the work shaping the Clippers this summer? That’s 100 percent true!

(No, really, it’s 100 percent true!)

After Neil Olshey left for Portland, in classic Don Sterling fashion, the Clips decided against hiring a new general manager — something that, you know, every other team has — giving Del Negro, team president Andy Roeser and some guy named Gary Sacks (I think he’s a former Staples Center usher) the power to make every summer decision. Somehow this didn’t turn into one of the biggest calamities in sports history. Del Negroeseracks extended Blake Griffin for five years and $95 million (smart); re-signed Chauncey Billups (smart); amnestied Ryan Gomes (smart); signed Grant Hill (a sorely needed perimeter defender — really, really smart); flipped perpetual sourpuss Mo Williams into The Artist Formerly Known As Lamar Odom (not smart, but not dumb, either); and overpaid Jamal Crawford as this year’s “Erratic Gunner Off The Bench Who Will Win You One Game And Shoot You Out Of The Next Three” spot (really dumb, although they had three of these guys last season and only one this year, so at least we’re headed in the right direction).

Fact: The 2012-13 Clippers are better, on paper, then the 2011-12 Clippers. Especially from a chemistry standpoint. So kudos to Del Negroeseracks for a job well done. It’s just too bad they didn’t upgrade the head coaching spot. (Although I guess that would have been impossible.) On the other hand …

“What did I buy you for? To make me sad?”1

One day after Griffin signed his monster extension — $35 million more than Donald Sterling has ever guaranteed anybody — he tore his meniscus during a Team USA practice. Supposedly, he’ll be ready for the season. Supposedly. This could only happen to the Clippers. And by the way, pulling Grant Hill from the sanctity of Phoenix’s training staff to the tortured Clippers and their underwhelming medical staff is like some sort of sick science experiment. I’m patently terrified about this. Let’s just move on before I panic and put my 2012-13 season tickets on eBay.

“How would you like to die, Tyrion, son of Tywin?”
“In my own bed, at the age of 80, with a belly full of wine and a girl’s mouth around my c—.”

One of the funniest exchanges goes to another one of the funniest subplots: every time a team took it personally when another team signed one of their guys to a splashy offer sheet. (See: New York, New Orleans, Portland and Portland again.) Oh, I’m sorry — I thought we were competing against each other in a league in which only one team can win the trophy every year. My bad. I also enjoyed when restricted guys (Eric Gordon and Nicolas Batum, to name two) did the whole “please don’t match, my heart is somewhere else” routine — yeah, like that’s going to ever work — then had to frantically backtrack like a soccer defender after their original teams matched. Don’t you just love July?

“So clever … Aren’t you always so clever with your schemes and your plots.”
“Schemes and plots are the same thing.”

To my favorite offseason feud — Minnesota’s David Kahn butting heads with Portland’s Paul Allen by aggressively courting swingman Nicolas Batum and signing former Blazers hero Brandon Roy (restarting his career after undergoing the “Kobe treatment” in Germany), with neutral observers wondering if Kahn’s sudden obsession with Blazers players might be revenge for Portland trading him damaged goods (Martell Webster) two years ago.2 How pissed off was Portland? When Kahn stupidly offered them Derrick Williams and two no. 1s for the chance to totally overpay Batum (four years, $46 million), Portland turned him down and eventually matched the offer. Are you kidding me? We’ll spend the rest of our lives trying to figure out what was stranger — the offer itself, or Portland not immediately accepting that offer, fleecing Kahn and never looking back.

Important note: I didn’t mind the logic behind Minnesota’s offer sheet for Batum when you remember this formula: “Cold weather + small market + years of incompetence = you’re not signing free agents unless you overpay for them.” Batum brings three things to the table that the 2012 Finals proved everyone needs going forward: athleticism, perimeter defense and 3-point shooting. Over the next four years, I’d rather pay Batum $46 million than Roy Hibbert $58 million. I can’t beat Miami or Oklahoma City with Hibbert — as the Heat proved in the last three games of their comeback against Indiana, when they basically ran Hibbert off the floor — but Batum would be valuable against either team. And those are the two teams I need to beat if I want to win the title. So yeah, I’m defending David Kahn here.

(Should we mention that Kahn made the Batum offer and Roy signing without having enough cap space to pull them off, then had to amnesthize Darko Milicic, buy out Webster and swing a couple of minor deals to carve out the room … only to watch Portland inevitably match the Batum offer, so basically, the T-Wolves squandered extra money for an offer sheet that had no chance? I guess that deserves an honorary “KAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHN!” But I enjoyed his aggressiveness this summer. Pursuing Batum was the right move.)

“I’m not a cripple.”
“Then I’m not a dwarf. My father will be rejoiced to hear it.”

We’re on a run of classic Tyrion Lannister moments right now. I’m not even giving this one to anyone — it’s too good. Here’s another …

“If I die, weep for me.”
“You’ll be dead. How will you know?”
“I’ll know.”

Remember the 48 hours after Game 3 of the Miami-Indiana series, when it seemed like the frisky Pacers were on the verge of (a) killing the LeBron/Wade era, and (b) sneaking into the Finals? That was fun. Now they’re building around three overpaid starters — Danny Granger (two years, $27.1 million), Hibbert (four years, $58 million), George Hill (five years, $40 million) — a bunch of overpaid role players ($21 million next year for David West, Ian Mahinmi, D.J. Augustin and Gerald Green???) and one possible blue-chipper (Paul George, who absolutely stunk in the 2012 playoffs). Does Hallmark make “Congrats on locking down the no. 6 seed for the next few years” cards?

Quick tangent to celebrate Lannister — if you don’t watch Thrones, he’s the diabolical, perverted, entitled, sarcastic, strategic genius of a little person played by Peter Dinklage who rips off classic line after classic line. You know someone achieved TV greatness when he earned two “Best of” YouTube montages (here and here) AND a “Funniest Moments” montage after just 20 episodes. Where does he rank among the greatest TV characters ever? I can’t see how he falls out of the top 10. I just can’t. Here’s my own personal list that I spent exactly three minutes on before realizing that it could have turned into 30 hours and I had to stop.

1. Tony Soprano
2. Omar
3. Sam Malone
4. Don Draper
5. Sonny Crockett
6. Jack Bauer
7. Tyrion Lannister
8. Kenny Reeves
9. Stringer Bell
10. John Kelly3

And that’s when I had to stop, because I didn’t want to spend the next 30 hours figuring out where George Costanza, Norm Peterson, Louie, Fred Sanford, Cheryl David, Ricardo Tubbs, Larry David, Jim Rockford, Kris Munroe, Roger Sterling, Louie De Palma, Chandler Bing (first two years), Jack Tripper, Valerie Malone, Ernie “Coach” Pantusso, Jimmy McNulty, Bunk, Coach Taylor, Tim Riggins, Doug Ross, The Fonz, James Evans, J.J. Evans, Alex P. Keaton, Hank Kingsley, Elaine Benes, Paulie Walnuts, Gabe Kotter, Dan Tanna, J.R. Ewing, Kramer, Amanda Woodward, George Jefferson, President Bartlet, President Palmer, Steve Austin, Arnold Jackson, Mallory Keaton, Diane Chambers, Boner Stabone and everyone else I enjoyed over the years ranked on the all-time list. Just know that there’s a list within the list … and Tyrion Lannister is on that list. If there were sabermetrics for television, his KLPE (“Killer lines per episode”) rate would probably be the highest ever. Anyway …

“You can’t f— your way out of everything.”
“I have so far.”

The Mavericks tossed aside last year’s title defense by letting Tyson Chandler leave and placing their dragon eggs in the 2012 Howard/Williams free agency basket … which, of course, blew up in their faces. That was followed by a tense 72-hour period during which Dirk Nowitzki was probably drunk-dialing his buddy Nash begging him to sign with Dallas (that didn’t work out, either). They tried to regroup by turning the Jasons (Terry and Kidd), Ian Mahinmi and Brendan Haywood (via the amnesty clause) into a multiyear deal for O.J. Mayo (a valuable regular-season player who’s been atrocious in the playoffs) and one-year flyers on Darren Collison (I like that gamble — he’s produced in the past as long as he’s getting big minutes), Chris Kaman (another good gamble, even though he has missed 152 games since 2007) and Elton Brand (a cheap ninth man and a good locker room guy). That leaves them enough 2013 cap flexibility for a Dwight Howard run … you know, assuming he’d want to play with the “Dirk and a Bunch of Solid Dudes” roster they just assembled. Hold on, we’re not done.

“Winter is coming.”

If I were a Mavs fan, Jason Kidd’s comment after picking the Knicks over the Mavericks would worry me: “I looked at the (Mavericks) roster and I felt I could go quietly and retire, or I felt like I can compete and help a team win. So I saw the pieces of the Knicks, and I thought that I could help them out.” Translation: If I’m gonna keep playing, I want to be on a team with a chance to win the title. That’s not Dallas. You could almost hear the sound of Dirk’s second title window slamming shut. Hey, you know what would really suck? The Lakers rolling out a starting five of Howard, Dirk, LeBron, Kobe and Nash for the 2014-15 season. I’m moving overseas if this happens.

“You can’t talk to me like that. The king can do as he likes!”

Yeah, like this one wasn’t going to Mark Cuban?4

“The gods have no mercy. That’s why they’re gods.”

This one’s for the Bulls, who lost three valuable bench guys for financial reasons (Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and Omer Asik), softened the blow for their fans by bringing back Kirk Hinrich (they love that dude), and now are crossing their fingers that Derrick Rose — who’s reportedly “ahead of schedule,” giving him something in common with every single NBA player who ever rehabbed a torn ACL (has anyone ever been “on schedule” or “a smidge behind schedule”?) — can return to form in time for the 2013 playoffs even though that’s a two-year recovery and we learn this over and over and over again. What a bummer. Right now, there’s a steep drop from Miami to the next five Eastern playoff contenders (Boston, Chicago, New York, Brooklyn and Indiana). It’s just a fact.

“Look around you — we’re all liars here, and every one of us is better than you.”
“Those who have the most power have the least grace.”

Two of Littlefinger’s greatest quotes didn’t work for this column (even giving them to James Dolan would have been a stretch), but had to be included just because. In a million years, did you ever think Mayor Carcetti from The Wire would be reincarnated as a calculating, horny whorehouse owner named “Littlefinger” in a raunchy, over-the-top medieval sci-fi drama … and totally crush that role? And if you haven’t watched Thrones yet, how could you read the previous sentence and NOT want to jump in?

Another fun thing about Thrones — if you get hooked on the show with your significant other during a binge-watch,5 there’s a fun stage where you start jokingly calling each other “my lord” and “my lady” and say things like, “What’s wrong, my moon and my stars?” It’s 100 percent stupid but strangely entertaining. Speaking of my wife, these were six of her actual quotes during the first episode. (I jotted them down as they happened — she thought I was texting.)

“That’s how I want to go, I want to be beheaded. It’s quick, you don’t feel anything. When it’s my time, behead me.”

“That little boy’s hairdo is a little too perfect for medieval times.”

“I have to say, I really wish I lived in these times. I would have thrived. I would have enjoyed making things from scratch and being outside.”

“One thing about living back then — I wouldn’t have enjoyed the way they treated animals.”

“Wow, she’s fooled around before with the guy who protects the north!”

“This kid is going to fall, and then I’m going to be mad.”

(I thought that summed up the first episode pretty well.)

“Would it be excessive of me to ask you to save my life twice in a week?”

You probably noticed that the amnesty clause wiped out a few more unseemly contracts this month, including Elton “Really, You’re Amnesty-ing Me So You Have Enough Cap Space To Sign Nick Young And Kwame Brown???????” Brand ($18.1 million), Andray “Dan Steinberg Summed Me Up Perfectly” Blatche ($23 million), Darko “Kaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahnnnnnn!” Milicic ($10.8 million), Josh “In Retrospect, I Probably Could Have Been Arrested For Stealing” Childress ($21 million), Chris “I Guess This Creepy Ongoing FBI Investigation Didn’t Really Help My Cause” Andersen ($9.3 million), Luis “What The Hell? I’m Actually Good!” Scola ($30 million), Ryan “Really? You’re That Cheap? I Barely Make Anything?” Gomes ($4 million), and Brendan “You Knew This Day Was Coming From the Moment You Signed Me” Haywood ($37 million). But here’s what really concerns me …

As you know, I’m the self-proclaimed Picasso of the Trade Machine. Here’s what Picasso needs: canvas and paint. That’s it. By extinguishing many of the god-awful contracts that always ended up in my fake trades on the Trade Machine, you’re depleting my paint resources and burning half of my canvases — especially when it’s something as gorgeous as Elton Brand’s Expiring Contract, which vanished as quickly as Rashard Lewis’s Expiring Contract (after New Orleans bought him out). Just warning you: Picasso does NOT have a lot to work with this season. There’s Corey Maggette’s Expiring Contract, Jose Calderon’s Expiring Contract, maybe Kevin Martin’s Expiring Contract … and that’s about it. This sucks. I hate the amnesty clause.

“I’m a monster, as well as a dwarf. You should charge me double.”

True or false: Fifteen NBA teams jettisoned nearly $350 million worth of contracts since December with the amnesty clause.

(I’ll wait. Mull it over.)

(Waiting.)

(Waiting.)

(Waiting.)

(And … time!)

That was 100 percent true. Check out Marc Stein’s complete list. And you wonder why we had a lockout. My amnesty odds for next summer: Charlie Villanueva (-400), Metta World Peace (-300), Mike Miller (-200), Kendrick Perkins (even), Joel Anthony (even), John Salmons (even), Drew Gooden (+150), Tyrus Thomas (+200), Carlos Boozer (+250), Kobe Bryant (30 to 1), Paul Pierce (40 to 1).6 My advice: Parlay Villaneuva, Perkins and World Peace. Can’t lose.

“A Lannister always pays his debts.”7

To the Celtics for lavishing Jeff Green with a four-year, $32 million deal in what could only be considered a “thanks for not taking it personally last year when we dropped you right before you had heart surgery so we could save $18 million in salary plus tax money” gesture. If you think of Green’s contract as a five-year, $32 million deal (including last season), it’s a little more palatable. (Thinking.) You’re right, it’s probably not.

Putting that contract in the context of a bigger picture, it makes more sense — the Celtics extended their relevance for three years by bringing back their nucleus (Rondo, Pierce, Garnett, Bass and Bradley), flipping Allen for Terry (a smart move because Terry thrives off the bench), then adding Green, stealing Courtney Lee (a hijacking!) and adding two rookie bigs (Sullinger and Melo). (Hold on, I’m shifting to the “we” tense like I’m on the team.) We hosted Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, with a chance to go to the Finals, and it didn’t happen because one of the best 12 or 13 players submitted one of the single most spectacular playoff performances in the history of the league. Why not run it back and see what happens? Besides, what was the alternative … “creating” cap space to make a run at a free agent who never would have actually signed with us? Come on. If you’re close enough to sniff the trophy, you keep going for it. Period.

“He was no dragon. Fire cannot kill a dragon.”8

For Jimmer Fredette, now the 19th-string point guard in Sacramento and someone who earned some scathing summer league tweets from ESPN.com’s David Thorpe in Vegas, including this one: “When I first watched Brandon Jennings play, in Vegas, I thought his teammates must love playing alongside him. It is the opposite with Jimmer.” Are we remaking One on One with Jimmer as Henry Steele right now and nobody told me? When are we getting to the part when a bruising football player beats Jimmer up so the Kings can get his scholarship back?

“War was easier than daughters.”

One of my favorite quotes goes to my favorite remaining free agents, all of whom seem to be available at a discount right now:9 Anthony Tolliver (always, always, always liked him); Randy Foye (3-point shooting, played in some big games); Dominic McGuire (a shockingly good perimeter defender); Leandro Barbosa (if you’re giving him away, absolutely); Carl Landry (ditto); Hamed Haddadi (like his energy, he could be a good backup center); Carlos Delfino (a better version of what Mickael Pietrus tried to do for Boston last spring); Shannon Brown (energy); and last but not least, Brian Cardinal (the premier NBA chemist on the market right now).

“I piss on Dothraki omens. I’ve waited 17 years to get my throne back.”

To Danny Ferry, who became an immediate cult hero for dumping Marvin Williams (and his relatively offensive contract) and Joe Johnson (and his undeniably offensive contract) for expiring deals in a much-needed change of direction for Atlanta fans, who had felt nothing other than “lukewarm” about their Hawks for five solid years. Sadly, they don’t have quite enough left for a legitimate Dwight Howard run — it’s too bad Al Horford isn’t 22 percent better at basketball or they’d be right there. But if any team needed to be thrown in the washing machine for a few minutes, it was the Atlanta Hawks.

The best thing going in Atlanta’s favor: There’s a historical precedent for a much-ballyhooed hire eventually bombing in Cleveland, then making the most of his second chance and winning titles. (See: Belichick, Bill.) The second-best thing going in Atlanta’s favor: God hates Cleveland.

“They say I am half a man. But what does that make the lot of you? … Don’t fight for your king. And don’t fight for his kingdoms. Don’t fight for honor, don’t fight for glory. Don’t fight for riches, because you won’t get any. This is your city Stannis means to sack and your gate he’s ramming. If he gets in, it will be your houses he burns, your gold he steals, your women he will rape. Those are brave men knocking at our door. Let’s go kill them!”

Tyrion Lannister’s greatest moment10 goes to Embattled Nets GM Billy King (his official name — he changed it and everything), who made an indefensible mistake (dealing a top-three protected pick for Portland’s Gerald Wallace that ended up being no. 6), compounded that mistake (by paying Wallace $40 million over four years) … and, just when it seemed like Deron Williams was leaving, Dwight Howard wasn’t coming and the city of Brooklyn was going to get overtaken by Stannis, Billy King remembered something.

“Hey, wait a second … I can spend more money than everyone else! My team is owned by a Russian billionaire! THOSE ARE BRAVE MEN KNOCKING AT OUR DOOR! LET’S GO KILL THEM!”

The rest was history. And guess what? I actually loved the Joe Johnson trade for the Nets! Was there a more brilliant chess move this summer? Yeah, he’s overpaid to the point that it’s almost startling. But what do the Nets care? Other than Wade and Kobe, he’s the most reliable 2-guard in basketball. For this upcoming season, they flipped a bunch of forgettable expiring guys into Johnson — again, the third-most reliable 2-guard in basketball — which was a trade you’d make every week and twice on Sunday. For the three seasons after that, they’re paying him a jaw-dropping and unequivocally ludicrous $69 million, nearly twice what he will actually be worth, but guess what? He’ll still be a valuable piece for them. Besides, since when does Prokhorov care about wasting money? You think this guy is really sweating over an extra $30 million? If Brooklyn’s front office said to him, “We had a chance to improve our team, but the money scared us off,” now that would infuriate him.

And then there’s this: The Johnson trade single-handedly convinced Deron Williams to spurn Dallas and stay in Brooklyn. (Williams even admitted as much.)

What’s funny is that Williams (next five years: $100 million) might be almost as overpaid as Johnson (next four years: $89 million). Check out Williams’s résumé without Jerry Sloan — in 67 New Jersey games for two lottery teams, Williams shot 39 percent from the field, 31 percent from 3, and broke all kinds of “bad body language” records (check out this January story). It’s unclear if Williams will ever rekindle his efficient 2008 mojo, when he paced a half-decent Jazz squad to 54 wins, tossed up a 19-11 every night and finished with 51-80-40 shooting percentage splits. If the Nets are getting 2008 Deron, or even 2010 Deron (19-11, 47-37-80 splits), that’s $100 million well spent. 2012 Deron? Not as much … but considering they needed “names” to open up that Brooklyn arena, they don’t care. The Deron/Joe backcourt is better than “Um, can we get a mulligan for one year until we get Dwight?”

Last question: How much praise can Billy King really get for winning one of the most reckless front-office gambles in league history? Let’s say I drove to Vegas and put every dollar in my savings account AND the mortgage of my house on “black” in roulette … and I won. Would you say, “Great work, you did it”? Or would you say, “Why the hell did you do that?” In King’s case, you might say both. The phrase “all in” has become the most overused phrase in basketball, but seriously, nobody was ever more “all in” than Billy King this summer. And it sort of worked out. Of course …

“You know nothing, Jon Snow.”

King did guarantee $61 million to Brook Lopez, a 7-footer who averaged 6.0 rebounds per game — no, really, SIX — during the 2010-11 season, then broke the same foot twice last season. That didn’t stop Billy from guaranteeing Lopez a million more than the Saints guaranteed Drew Brees. Throw in the comical Kris Humphries extension (two years, $24 million) and Brooklyn is paying close to $73 million for a 2012-13 starting five that might not be able to defend anyone. Will anyone ever pay more for a less charismatic nucleus? None of them have nicknames, YouTube mixes, distinguishable quirks about their game … it’s just five quiet, hardworking professionals who play hard and don’t stand out in any real way. (Except for Humphries, who gets booed in opposing arenas because of his allegedly realistic performance on one of the most hideously staged reality-TV shows ever made.)11 Of course, winning solves everything … and if the Nets are winning, charisma won’t matter. Stay tuned.

“Tell Lord Tywin winter is coming for him. Twenty thousand northerners marching south to find out if he really does shit gold.”

One more time … $61 million for Brook Lopez! Why did we have a lockout again? I wouldn’t have paid $61 million over four years for both Lopez brothers — not even if you threw in Mario Lopez and George Lopez.

“You’re blessed with abilities that few men possess. You’re blessed to belong to the most powerful family in the kingdoms. And you’re still blessed with youth. And what have you done with these blessings, eh? You served as a glorified bodyguard for two kings … one a madman, the other a drunk.”

For Dwight Howard, who screwed everything up for himself about 20 times more than LeBron ever did in 2010. Would you trust Dwight Howard to order you an omelette at this point? What’s funny is that everything is going to work out — he’ll end up on the Lakers, the fans will embrace him, he’ll realize that it’s pretty fun to live anonymously near the water in 80-degree weather in a big city full of other wealthy celebrities, and by December, he’ll be saying, “Sign me for five years, please” and leading them on yet another run of Finals appearances. I’m already pissed off about it.12

You know what’s really annoying? As currently constructed, the Lakers can’t win the title because they’re too old and plodding (just like last year), and because their perimeter guys are going to get slaughtered defensively. Howard would make the Lakers infinitely more athletic, protect the paint and cover up for Nash and Kobe every time their guys beat them off the dribble. Even better, he doesn’t even need the ball! Seriously, you couldn’t CGI a basketball player who makes more sense as a teammate for Nash, Kobe, Artest and Gasol than Dwight Howard does. And he’s falling out of the sky for them. God, I hate the Lakers.

“When they write the history of my reign, sweet sister, they will say it began today.”

Let’s see, Miami wins the NBA title, LeBron breaks through and hits a level that we haven’t seen in two decades, we were all probably screwed, anyway … and then Ray Allen falls into their laps at a 50 percent discount? Good God almighty. We … are … screwed. Remember the days when this clip was funny?

(Shaking my head. Not once … not twice … not three times … )

“I am not questioning your honor, I am denying its existence.”

Great quote. Tyrion Lannister at his finest. Anyway, that’s how more than a few Celtics fans felt about Allen after he handed over his “Big Three” spot to Rajon Rondo and jumped ship for half of what Boston was offering. The ensuing vitriol was a mortal lock: There isn’t a more provincial, irrational sports city than Boston for that specific type of scenario. Meanwhile, there was never any doubt that Ray was leaving — after they nearly traded him in March to two different teams that backed out at the last minute (Memphis and Chicago), then compounded the insult by giving Avery Bradley his starting job in April AND splurging for Jason Terry right when free agency started, Ray was packing his bags and that was that. I would have wagered anything.

You wouldn’t have stayed, either. Loyalty is a two-way street. Ray Allen played 16 years and earned an estimated $178 million already — you think he cares that Boston offered twice as much as Miami? He gets to live in South Beach, play 20 minutes a game, shoot wide-open 3s and — oh — play with the best basketball player in 20 years. By the time it’s over, the “Who was better, Reggie Miller or Ray Allen?” question will no longer be asked. We’ll remember Ray Allen as the greatest long-range shooter ever. That’s all he cares about — that and being happy/respected/appreciated. He’s in it for himself, the same way Danny Ainge was in it for himself when he frantically tried to deal Ray last March.

I made this point before — I will make it again. These guys don’t care about rivalries. Only we do. We want to believe players care about things like “We hate Miami, we have to beat those guys!” … but they only care about that stuff in the moment. Fan bases, not players, keep rivalries going. Ray jumped to Miami because it was the best move for him. Nash jumped to the Lakers because it was the best move for him. That’s sports, that’s the way it’s always been, that’s the way it will always be. Ray helped win the 2008 title, played all 48 minutes in one of the best Celtics comebacks ever (Game 4 of the Finals), crossed over Vujacic on the defining play AND made that annoying bastard practically cry!!! His 2009 performance against the Bulls was one for the ages. I still think we would win the title in 2010 if Ron Artest didn’t give him a charley horse in Game 3. He played in real pain this spring and gave everything he had for three straight playoff series. He was a true Celtic. Sticking him on Miami only makes that already-juicy rivalry more entertaining, especially now that everyone knows about the ongoing bitterness between him and Rondo (a little overblown, but still).

One more Ray thought …

“It’s the family name that lives on. That’s all that lives on. Not your personal glory, not your honor, but family.”

As a fan, there was nothing like the experience of coming off a timeout right before a make-or-break offensive play, knowing Ray was coming off a double screen in a big moment — not just the artistry of it (how he had practiced his footwork and release for hundreds of thousands of hours, to the point that it was just as mechanical as breathing for him), not just the degree of difficulty (since the opponent always knew the same play was coming), but the undeniable feeling that you always thought the shot was going in. Following Boston sports for nearly four decades, I can’t remember being more confident in anything than Ray Allen with the game in his hands. I don’t know if he’s that same player anymore, and I wonder if he’ll thrive coming off the bench in limited minutes; that’s why I didn’t mind flipping him into Terry and Courtney Lee. Just know that I enjoyed the Ray Allen era. Better than advertised. And we’ll always have 2008.

Filed Under: Art, General topics, Losers, NBA, Series, Sports

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Bill Simmons is the editor-in-chief of Grantland and the author of the New York Times no. 1 best seller The Book of Basketball. For every Simmons column and podcast, click here.

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