MIAMI (AP) — There’s no shortage of potentially awkward events for Ray Allen to endure Tuesday night.
Most of his new Miami Heat teammates will get championship rings; he won’t be among them. When the franchise’s second title banner gets raised to the rafters, Allen isn’t sure how he’s supposed to react. And all that hubbub will occur as his past collides with his future — his former team, the Boston Celtics, will be the opponent awaiting the Heat when their pregame tribute to the 2012 NBA title ends.
“It’s their moment,” Allen said.
It is, however, loaded with irony — since Allen was on the team that almost thwarted Miami’s title plans.
Allen was with the Celtics last season when they took the Heat to seven games in a classic Eastern Conference final. Then came the summer, when Allen spurned Boston and signed with Miami, changing sides in the rivalry with just a few strokes of a pen. And deep down, he knew long ago that things would work out this way: Celtics-Heat, opening night, a marquee matchup to get the season started.
He was right.
“I’ve gotten over it now to the point where you just say, you can celebrate their success,” Allen said. “More than anything, I’m just focused on once that’s over with, we have a game to go out and win.”
That’s a mantra shared by just about everyone in the Heat locker room.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade both said they would have preferred the ring ceremony to happen Monday night, so that nothing interferes with the importance of the game Tuesday night. Chris Bosh said the celebration could inspire both teams — since he remembers how hungry his team was for last season’s opener when Dallas raised the title banner it won at Miami’s expense, then got blown out by the Heat.
The final margin was only 11 points; the Heat led by 35 less than 4 minutes into the second half.
“You know they’re going to be amped-up,” Heat forward Shane Battier said. “We’re going to get their best shot. We know that going in.”
Seeing their friend-turned-foe will only add to that.
Allen’s changing of addresses adds substantially more spice to a rivalry that didn’t really need any extra oomph. James and Paul Pierce have been waging some duels for nearly a decade now. The Heat and Celtics have met in the playoffs in each of the last three years, Miami winning the last two since James and Bosh came to join Wade.
It’s even more heated now, with Allen wearing red and black instead of green and white. Kevin Garnett said early in training camp that he doesn’t even have Allen’s number in his phone anymore. There’s been a lingering sense that at least part of Allen’s decision to sign with Miami was out of some sort of dissatisfaction about now-former teammate Rajon Rondo. Celtics coach Doc Rivers even has said that Miami is Boston’s target this season, plain and simple.
In some respects, Allen is eager for Tuesday night to end, if only in that Wednesday morning may bring some normalcy.
“We can move on,” Allen said. “We can move on. I think it’s two-fold, having a ring ceremony and then playing Boston. It’s like both situations, letting go of what happened last year and moving forward. They’re repeating, but I’m on the quest for a championship. That’s a challenge that we’re all facing together.”
Allen remembers just about everything from his first ring night — the Celtics won the title in 2008, then opened the following season at home against James and his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Boston won 90-85.
The Cavs didn’t watch the Celtics’ pregame party. The Celtics almost certainly won’t watch Miami’s, either.
“When you win a championship you have two key points that you look forward to,” Allen said. “One is the parade. And two was getting the rings.”
Even though he’s not getting one, Allen said he is looking forward to whatever is coming on Tuesday night.
He’s with the Heat now. Miami is home. What’s done with Boston is done, he said. He’s going to celebrate with his team.
“It’s an event,” Allen said. “It brings closure to it. People get to celebrate it, going into the next season and then you can let it go.”
(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)