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When Someone Moves On

CJ Dudek, Sports Columnist

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The return of Ray Allen to the TD Bank Garden had the Celtics faithful feeling a bit like old lovers.

Allen became the king of the land beyond the arc wearing Boston green. He helped the Celtics re-establish themselves as a perennial contender in the Eastern Conference. Most importantly, he helped bring the Celtics fans banner number 17 in 2008.

Before this season began, Allen parted ways with the Celtics after bitter in-fighting to join their “rivals” the Miami Heat. The move was one loathed by fans from Kenmore to South-E and everyone else that occupies Legends Way for Celtics games.

Still, the fans were able to applaud Allen before the game as a thank you for bringing the Celtics back to NBA relevance. Once he came into the game the love was lost and the boo birds sang their song of dejection.

The return of Allen to the Garden (pronounced Ga-aaahhh-den) happens to be the most recent case study of when a former player leaves your team and returns for the first time bearing the colors of someone else.

Usually how fans react to the return of a former player depends on a few factors. First and foremost is the circumstance in which a player departs the team. Fans are generally less mad at a player who enjoys the town they are in, but gets traded or released by management for one reason or another.

Players like Chauncey Billups formerly of the New York Knicks fit into this category. Billups was waived by the team two years ago in order to make room to acquire Tyson Chandler. Billups paid his dues, played well, and was respectful to the fans of Madison Square Garden.

So whenever Billups comes back as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, he will receive a small token of appreciation from the fans before the game.

The next factor is to which team the player goes. Former Red Sox who become Yankees, a la Johnny Damon, was called “Johnny Demon” throughout his tenure in pinstripes because he was a favorite in Boston who left for the archenemy.

But when Damon moved on to Tampa Bay and eventually Detroit, the Red Sox faithful softened their hatred and remembered how Damon helped the Red Sox win their first World Series in 86 years.

In the case of Ray Allen, he was an exemplary player for his five years in Boston. He was the epitome of class and even maintained his composure throughout a torrent of trade rumors a year ago.

So while the Garden faithful don’t care for the fact that Allen took his talents to South Beach, the only ones who truly resent him are the guys who live in their mothers’ basements, calling sports talk radio solely to complain about it.

Moving on is just part of the reality of sports. Even when sometimes moving on may be the hardest thing to do.

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