By Paris Felder
Minding my own business during a rainy day in Seattle I was watching a recent “Open Court” segment on NBA TV. Trying a different set up than usual, the panel was Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and Devin Booker discussing each of their rookie years. Matt Winer asked each of them what former players they have emulated their play styles after in their journies to the NBA. While Russell essentially passed on the question because he “doesn’t like to give other players credit”, Towns “has always tried to be his own player” and Embiid mentioned Olajuwon. Devin Bookers answer subtlely frustrated me…
“I wouldn’t say just one person. Just the shooting guard position as a whole… picked bits and pieces from everybody's game. I grew up in Michigan.. Chauncy… I was a huge Rip Hamilton fan from the way he moved without the ball. And then, obviously Ray Allen in Boston. One of the best shooters to ever play the game. So just studying the things they do on the court, how they get open, how they work “pin downs”, a bunch of things I just studied but I wouldn’t say one person.” -Devin Booker
When you think of Ray Allen what pops in your head? Over his 20 year career he’s provided countless memories and been apart of his fair share of great teams while constantly reinventing his game to fit his team's needs. When most are asked about Ray Allen I’d assume something about the Boston big 3 or his shot that saved LeBron's career would spring to the top of the list. Or even a simple response of “Jesus Shuttlesworth” would suffice. But I have NEVER heard anybody mention his tenure in Seattle as a bright spot of his career. Why is that? It’s almost as if his five seasons as a Supersonic are forgotten ghost years to NBA fans. Part of this is the Seattleite in me coming out but an even bigger part is pure confusion because these 5 seasons in Seattle were hands down the best individual years of his entire career.
Look, I get it… He reached an ECF in Milwaukee, won a ring teaming up with Paul Pierce and KG in Boston and hit arguably the most important shot in NBA Finals history for the Heatles in 2013, even his Big-East POY award in his last season at Uconn is extremely noteworthy. Between 7 season in Milwaukee, 5 in Boston and two in Miami, these accomplishments alone make a hall of fame career for Ray. But sprinkled in between all of this are five seasons that no one seems to remember. Averaging 24.6 points per game, 4.5 assists and 4.6 rebounds. Four all-star selections in five years. Leading the league in 3 point FG’s in three of those five years as a Sonic, he never had a stretch where he was quite as dominant as he was in Seattle.
It can be said without much argument that those Seattle teams were probably the worst teams he had played on his career but there were a couple of things that really stunted the Sonics potential during his stay. His first two seasons going 42-40 (2002/03) & 37-45 (2003/04) were to be expected with the rest of the roster. While being on the outside of the playoffs, the organization was trying to figure out what to do with Gary Payton and Rashard Lewis was just starting to show the flashes only being a couple of years removed from high school (why Ray signed with Seattle in the first place still puzzles me to this day). But in the 2004/2005 season they seemed figured it out going 52-30 and securing the third seed in the West. Ray averaged 26.5 a game in the 11 playoff games while they beat Sacramento in the first round before losing to San Antonio in six games. During the offseason, Sonics legend and current coach Nate McMillan decided to opt out and sign for the big bucks in Portland. Also presented with the chance to coach Seattle's own Brandon Roy in Portland, I bet that contributed to his decision but this didn't really work out for either side. McMillan eventually found success but went 21-61 in his first season as Portland's head coach while Seattle hired & fired Bob Weiss after 30 games and promoted assistant Bob Hill who was canned a year later along with the departure of Ray. That same offseason, Durant was drafted second overall igniting the rebuilding process for the franchise. Then a year after that the franchise was, how do I say this… deceptively relocated to Oklahoma City. Through all of this turmoil and uncertainty, it may be easy to discount Ray’s five years in Seattle.
Aside from Rashard Lewis making the all star team in 2005, Ray really didn't have a lot of help in his time in Seattle (Luke Ridnour, Reggie Evans & Nick Collison) and still managed to claim a third seed and go six games with the Spurs in the second round before the team was blown up. By my standards that is pretty impressive from a team success standpoint, not to mention he was averaging a career high 25 points per game.
So now I’m back to my original question and that's why are Ray Allen’s years in Seattle are so overlooked? It could be because his years in Milwaukee, Boston and Miami were simply more important. I mean he was apart of the first “manufactured” big 3 that will go down in NBA history as a turning point for the league. Without those roster moves that Boston made in 2007, LeBron probably doesn’t sign with Wade and Durant probably doesn’t sign with the Warriors. On Miami, like I mentioned before, he hit the biggest shot in NBA Finals history and while on the Bucks some of the battles that “young Ray” had with stars like Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady and Kobe were crack cocaine to basketball fans of any level. So I can understand how those are the stints that people probably remember more vividly. But despite anything Ray did in the rest of his career, nothing compares to the individual success he had as the single ray of hope (pun intended) during the dark days in Seattle. And to Devin Booker, Seattle Ray might be the film you want to study rather than Boston Ray surrounded by two other hall of famers. But that’s just me...