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Allen flashback sheds light

Celtic knows what is ahead for Heat

The finalizing of Ray Allen’s contract yesterday means the Celtics officially have their Big Three back for next season. The finalizing of Ray Allen’s contract yesterday means the Celtics officially have their Big Three back for next season. (File/Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / July 14, 2010

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WALTHAM — The star power overwhelmed the reality of it all. Chris Bosh, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade were all so decorated — the gold medals, the NBA Most Valuable Player awards, the Finals MVP trophies — it was hard to see past the shine of all that.

The Miami Heat have assembled a super team, the NBA’s X-Men, and the general thought, without having seen them on the floor, is that they will dominate the league for years. Yet Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith reminded the world that it might be giving the Heat their rings without asking them to earn it on the floor.

To the Celtics’ Ray Allen, seeing the reaction to the Heat’s new Big Three was like déjà vu.

“That’s what happened here,’’ Allen said, flashing back three summers when a flurry of trades brought him to Boston along with Kevin Garnett to form Boston’s Big Three with Paul Pierce.

Those Celtics faced the same praise and the same criticism. They were crowned the favorites but also were called mercenaries. They went on to win the title in 2007-08, and Allen said he can see similarities between that team and the squad still forming in Miami, though one thing remains to be seen.

“The question is, are they ready to sacrifice?’’ Allen asked. “Make the ultimate sacrifice? It’s not about numbers. It’s not about accolades. When we did this in ’07, that’s what we all knew. That’s what we all said.’’

Three years later the Celtics’ stars are still sacrificing.

Allen, who last week agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal to stay in Boston and finalized the contract yesterday, took less money to remain a Celtic. Pierce, the captain and the face of the franchise the past 12 years, passed on a $21 million option for next season to sign a four-year, $61 million extension that saved the team money.

Allen said leaving money on the table was easier to do after making the initial sacrifices when the three stars first came together.

He recalled when he first arrived in Boston, “The question was phrased to us, ‘Who’s going to take the last shot?’ We all said, ‘The guy who’s open.’ I think when you go through it, you’re so used to playing a certain way, that first year, it was — I wouldn’t say frustrating — it was an adjustment that we all had to make. But we were winning games, so everybody was happy and everything was great.’’

With their core still intact, the Celtics now are filling out their roster.

They started by addressing their needs in the frontcourt, signing veteran center Jermaine O’Neal last week, but their work isn’t done.

Allen said he was out recruiting.

“I think now we’re at the stage where you see all the pieces where you’ve got guys that are taking less money and they want to be a part of a winner,’’ Allen said.

“Veteran players that are very much role players and even some guys that have been dominant players in the league that are going to take less money because they want to be a part of a situation where they have a chance to win. So I think sometimes that does include some of the guys already on the team convincing some of our friends to join us.’’

Allen was courted by James but said he had made up his mind to return to the Celtics before “The Decision,’’ in part so he wouldn’t have to uproot his family. Allen was one of the nearly 10 million people who viewed James’s prime-time special, although he did so begrudgingly.

“I wasn’t entertained, even though I know I found myself watching it,’’ he said. “I was kicking myself for it because there were so many other things I could have been doing.

“But at the end of the day, I think we were all hamstrung by one person and what their decision was going to be and it was a trickle-down effect for the rest of the guys. I was glad I was able to take care of it leading up to that. So I didn’t have to worry about it or think that it was hinging on his decision.

“Myself and the Celtics made sure that I was coming back.’’

During James’s one-hour special, he said that the Celtics’ formula for success played a part in his decision to join forces with two of the top stars in the league.

Over the past three seasons, the Celtics and James’s Cavaliers developed a rivalry that ultimately ended this past postseason with James playing his last game in a Cleveland uniform in an Eastern Conference semifinal loss at TD Garden.

But just because the Celtics were the blueprint, Allen said, doesn’t mean the Heat will be a carbon copy.

“I believe that every year, the team that wins the championship always somewhat sets the mold,’’ Allen said. “You figure out what you’ve got to do to beat any particular team that won or dominated a division or the conference.

“We proved that it could work, because it was so many questions about us when we came in.

“We as individuals, we just said we really want to win, and we did whatever it took to try and figure out how we can make each other be better and make a better team.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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