The Celtics kept their Big Three together. Miami assembled their own. Now both teams are trying to surround their stars with reinforcements. With both teams strapped for cap room, their dollars won't be as potent as their powers of persuasion.
With the defending Eastern Conference champions still working to fill out their roster, Ray Allen, who re-signed with the Celtics last week for two years and $20 million, said he's talked to free agent friends about making Boston a destination.
"I think now weíre at the stage where you see all the pieces where youíve 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 that are questioning what theyíre going to do."
Allen knows what it's like to be wooed. The word was that as the Heat were luring in Chris Bosh and LeBron James to join Dwyane Wade, James reached out to Allen asking if he wanted to join what they were calling the "Dream Team." Allen ultimately decided to stay in Green. But, reluctantly, he was one of the nearly 10 million people to watch James' prime time "Decision" to join the Heat.
"I wasnít entertained, even though I know I found myself watching it," Allen 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. So it did affect what I was going to do along with a lot of other guys. I was glad I was able to take care of it leading up to that. So I didnít have to worry about it or thing that it was hinging on his decision. Myself and the Celtics made sure that I was coming back."
The common question about the Bosh-James-Wade connection was whether they had been planning it for months or even years and if so whether that qualified as tampering. On the recuiting trail himself, Allen said the entire concept of tampering is a "slippery slope."
"Most of the guys in the league you know," Allen said. "So itís not like you canít have a conversation about, ďHey, you should come here next year, youíre a free agent.í Theyíre your friends. Youíre not signing checks or giving anybody extra money. Youíre just having a conversation. I donít know really what you can and cannot do, but Iím sure at this stage, when everybodyís free agents, you can call around and try and push the envelope a little bit more. Especially with guys that you know well."
The Heat are the preordained favorites, but Allen said nothing's guaranteed.
"The question is are they ready to sacrifice, make the ultimate sacrifice," Allen said. "Itís not about numbers. Itís not about accolades. When we did this in í07. Thatís what we all knew. Thatís what we all said."