ESPN.com writer Ramona Shelburne aided with this report.
Rajon Rondo, former Celtics teammates plan to celebrate their 2008 title without Ray Allen
‘I mean, Ray left. He left to the enemy.’
Just like Rajon Rondo used to set up the fast break for the Boston Celtics, he is setting up a vacation with his former Celtics teammates from the 2008 NBA championship team to celebrate the nearing of the 10-year anniversary of their title. This party, however, doesn’t include an invite to ex-Celtics star guard Ray Allen.
“I asked a couple of the guys. I got a no, a no head shake,” said Rondo to The Undefeated when asked why Allen wasn’t invited.
Allen and Kevin Garnett joined forces with Celtics veteran forward Paul Pierce in the summer of 2007 to form one of the greatest star trios the NBA has ever seen. With a young budding star Rondo as their point guard, Allen, Garnett and Pierce led the Celtics to their first NBA championship in 22 years with their 17th title in 2008. The four were also the key players on a Celtics team that lost in the 2010 NBA Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers.
On July 10, 2012, however, Allen shocked his Celtics teammates by agreeing to a three-year, $9.5 million contract with the rival Miami Heat. Allen turned down a two-year, $12 million offer from the Celtics with a no-trade clause after seeking a longer and more lucrative deal and not seeing eye to eye with Rondo. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Heat eliminated their bitter rival Celtics in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals and went on to win back-to-back NBA championships.
Allen, a retired 10-time NBA All-Star, has been estranged from Rondo, Pierce and Garnett since his departure from Boston and winning the 2013 championship with Miami.
“It will be a long story about that, but it is what it is,” Rondo, who plays for the Chicago Bulls, told The Undefeated. “I don’t know a good analogy to put this in. It just wasn’t the greatest separation. It wasn’t the greatest thing that could’ve happened to us as a team, a bond. We were at war with those guys [Miami]. To go with the enemy, that’s unheard-of in sports. Well, it’s not so unheard of. It’s damn near common now.
“The mindset we had. The guys on our team. You wouldn’t do anything like that. It makes you question that series in the Finals … Who were you for? You didn’t bleed green. People think we had a messed-up relationship. It’s not the greatest. But it’s not just me. I called and reached out to a couple of other vets and asked them what they wanted to do with the situation. They told me to stick with what we got [without Allen].”
One former Celtics player from the 2008 NBA championship team said of Allen’s exclusion from the party: “I mean, Ray left. He left to the enemy.”
Pierce didn’t comment on the lack of the invitation to Allen when asked about it March 18. But in a 2016 story in The Undefeated, the Los Angeles Clippers forward described Allen’s departure to Miami as “betrayal.”
“That was a tough situation because we thought it was betrayal,” Pierce said. “That’s why the whole thing evolved like it did with us not talking to him. Ray didn’t really have the best relationship with Rondo anyway. That was nothing. [Rondo], me and Kevin, he didn’t have any talk with us [before his Miami decision].
“I tried to call him and I didn’t get any return calls before he signed with Miami. That was our rival. We were brothers. We came in together. We just wanted a heads-up or a ‘what’s on your mind?’ or something like. Then, all of a sudden, he left. That was the biggest disappointment on my end. Not even getting a callback at that moment.”
Efforts to reach Allen didn’t result in a comment. But if the group consensus were to invite Allen, would Rondo offer an invitation despite their differences?
“I would have went with the team, with the group,” Rondo said.
Not every member of the 2008 NBA championship team is anti-Allen. Former Celtics forward-center Leon Powe, a member of the 2008 NBA championship team, said he spoke to Rondo about the reunion recently in Boston and was in. Powe, who works in the Celtics’ scouting department, was surprised to learn Sunday that Allen wasn’t invited.
“I assumed that Ray would be invited,” Powe told The Undefeated. “That is one of my guys. My preference is that Ray is extended an invitation.”
Except for Allen, Rondo said, he has personally offered an invite to the celebration to all of his ex-Celtics teammates except a hard-to-locate retired forward-center P.J. Brown. The Rondo-led celebration is a work in progress at an undisclosed international location.
“Everybody else should be there. I’ve actually talked to everyone [else],” Rondo said. “With me going out to every different city, I ran into ‘E-House’ [Eddie House] in Phoenix, I ran into ‘Scal’ [Brian Scalabrine], Leon Powe. The only person I haven’t got in touch with was P.J. Brown. I should be able to find him. I can get in touch with his wife and that is the route I’m going to take with him.
“This is going to an out-of-the-country thing at an undisclosed location. We’re going to get it together, enjoy life, reflect and check on each other. Next year will be the 10-year reunion, but I’m going to do it this summer.”
Rondo, Pierce and Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen are the only players still active from the 2008 NBA championship team. Pierce has announced he is retiring after this season. Rondo, a four-time NBA All-Star, said he feels odd being considered an older player at 31 years old.
“I’m just trying to stay young and take care of my body, Rondo said. “Taking it one day at a time, one season at a time. It went too fast. We are already talking about getting together on our 10-year anniversary. I’m like, ‘Ten. It’s been 10?’ It definitely went fast. It seemed like just yesterday where we were talking about how old K.G. was at 31. Look at me now, I’m 31 in the same situation, Young guys call me, ‘The O.G.’ I’m embracing it. I’m accepting it. But I didn’t expect to hear this s— so soon.”
Rondo has fond memories of his days as the starting point guard during a very successful run for the Celtics that included NBA Finals appearances in 2008 and 2010. The 11-year NBA veteran said he misses how close those Celtics teams were.
“We wanted to do it for one another,” Rondo said. “It started from start to finish. We believed in each other. Doc was a great and the right coach for us to have with that type of group. We all bought into it. We all thought we couldn’t be all we could be unless the next man was the best that he could be.
“We cheered for each other. There wasn’t no wishing bad on the next person or the guy in front of you. There was one effort. One goal. At one point in time throughout the season, everybody is going to have a chance to play a part and a role in it in this championship. And that’s what happened.”
Rondo has had an up-and-down season with the Bulls in which he has not seen eye to eye with coach Fred Hoiberg and has had an ever-changing role from reserve to benched to starter. He entered Sunday averaging 7.2 points, 6.4 assists and 4.9 rebounds this season. Rondo’s contract is only guaranteed $3 million of the $13.3 million he is due to be paid next season if he is waived by Chicago by June 30. Quietly, Rondo has also played a strong mentoring role for young Bulls guards Michael Carter-Williams, Jerian Grant and rookie Denzel Valentine.
Rondo said he is focused on finishing this season strongly for the Bulls and not what the future holds.
“I’m not really thinking about next year as far as where I will be. I’m going to stay here. I’m going to stay present. I’m not going to waste away any time. I’m a Chicago Bull. A good group of guys. I’m just trying to lead by example and play as hard as I can,” Rondo said.
Rondo said he still loves the game of basketball and would love to continue his career for many more years. Could he also see a return to the Celtics one day?
“I don’t know. You never know what can happen in this league. It’s a great organization. Great fans. They are the best I ever played for. I can’t say I’d never want to go back. But right now, I don’t know if that’s a plan for me,” Rondo said.