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Sonics to thank Allen, and he'll return favor

Ray Allen, who had a team-high 17 points, kept Sacramento's Spencer Hawes at arm's length en route to the basket during the first half of the Celtics' 89-69 victory over the Kings last night. Ray Allen, who had a team-high 17 points, kept Sacramento's Spencer Hawes at arm's length en route to the basket during the first half of the Celtics' 89-69 victory over the Kings last night. (steve yeater/Associated Press)
Email|Print| Text size + By Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / December 27, 2007

SACRAMENTO - The SuperSonics will thank Ray Allen in a ceremony prior to tonight's game in his return to Seattle. Considering the Sonics traded him to what has become the team with the best record in the NBA, Allen would like to thank them, too.

"Did they do me a favor?" he said yesterday prior to the Celtics' 89-69 victory over the Kings last night. "Yup, look where I am. Who knows what would have happened? With me being here and the resurgence here in Boston, being able to be on one of the best teams in the NBA, yeah, I think they did me a great favor."

From 2003 through last season, Allen was the face of the Sonics and one of Seattle's most beloved sports stars. He represented the Sonics in the All-Star Game the last four seasons and led the team in scoring in each of his seasons there. Therefore, it was no surprise Sonics fans booed at the team's draft party June 28 when Allen and the draft rights to forward Glen Davis were traded to the Celtics for Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West, and the draft rights to Jeff Green.

Initially, Allen had a "tough time" with the trade to the Celtics, who were coming off a 24-win season. After all, Kevin Garnett wasn't dealt to Boston until July 31. Now, Allen, Garnett, and Paul Pierce lead a Celtics team that entered last night with a 22-3 record.

"[My family] looked at it as an opportunity to move back to the East Coast, be around family," said Allen, who has an offseason home in the Hartford area. "The [Celtics], upon bringing me in, were looking at getting better as opposed to talking about it. They started making moves. It was definitely a positive thing."

Prior to tonight's game, Allen will be honored by the Sonics with a plaque and video tribute.

"Ray is a true professional and he'll always be valued by the Sonics organization," said Seattle first-year general manager Sam Presti in a recent telephone interview.

"As a teammate of Ray's in Seattle, I was obviously disappointed [about the trade]," said Sonics guard Earl Watson in an e-mail. "He is a player that brings a lot to the team. Not just his playing ability, but off the court also. He will do everything he can to bond that team as a family. I believe that is the intangible that takes teams to the next level.

"But seeing how everything worked out with the Celtics, as a friend of Ray's I am very happy for his chance to achieve something special this season. He deserves to have the opportunity of winning a championship."

The beginning of the end for Allen in Seattle came after the Sonics, the city's first major professional sports franchise, were sold to Professional Basketball Club LLC, a group from Oklahoma City, for $350 million July 18, 2006. The new ownership eventually fired GM Rick Sund and brought in Presti.

Presti had talked with Allen about the possibility of a trade. Presti declined to go into details about why Allen was dealt, but some of the reasons are believed to be his salary ($16 million this season), to allow heralded rookie Kevin Durant to become the focal point of the offense, Allen's age (32), and the need for a fresh start after the franchise failed to make four of the last five seasons.

"Ray was a consummate professional while he was with the Sonics, on and off the floor," Presti said. "We wish him the best in Boston. We had some tough decisions to make, but our goal is to build a talented group of players that can grow and develop on the same time line. This is a process, but we feel positioning ourselves in this way provides our organization with the best opportunity to achieve consistent success."

Allen sensed during his conversation with Presti that a trade would come.

"He didn't tell me what direction he was heading in," Allen said. "That's kind of how I knew I wasn't untouchable. I knew there was potential opportunity he was going to make a move and try to trade me. I knew there were trade talks in the works with Boston this time, so I asked him.

"His comment to me was, 'I'm glad that you brought it up because I didn't want to bring it up and make it seem like I was trying to trade you.' One way or the other, he is going to have to do his job. I didn't take it personal. But I knew with the change, when [Sund] got fired, that there were going to be a lot of moves made."

Allen has no hard feelings for the current Sonics ownership, led by Clay Bennett. Allen, however, is disappointed in the previous ownership, the Basketball Group of Seattle, headed by Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz, for trading the franchise to a group that is expected to move the team to Oklahoma City. Allen said it will be tough for the Sonics to stay in Seattle and they will "more than likely" leave.

"I never felt betrayed by the new ownership that came in," Allen said. "I think it was more the old ownership because that's who we really got to know and spend time with. Upon moving further, trying to make the team better and doing everything we could, in hindsight it seems like everything was ran barely above ground because ultimately they ended up selling the team.

"When Clay came in it seemed like he was trying to put his best foot forward. And then there was a time where for him it seemed like he had no options but to try to move the team.

"We all knew that he was going to give it a valiant effort, but he had a backup plan. I think it was hard to look at him keeping the team [in Seattle] when they knew he had a backup plan. If the last ownership sold it to a group in Seattle, no one would have panicked."

Allen said he follows the Sonics on television and wishes his friends on the team well. He acknowledged the pregame ceremony could get a little emotional.

"I'll tell them that I definitely miss them, a lot of guys that I spent time with in the summertime, a lot of people in the organization," he said. "The time I spent there. The friendships I created. Those people I got to know very well and know their families. It's always emotional."

Marc J. Spears can be reached at mspears@globe.com.

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