HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Just because their addresses have changed doesn’t mean the ill will Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (and vice versa) has subsided.
The wicked rivalry between four of the most intense competitors in the NBA started when James was in Cleveland and Garnett and Pierce were in Boston. It was stoked even more when James joined Wade in Miami and continues to this day, with Garnett and Pierce now in Brooklyn.
When LeBron jumped to the defense of his Heat teammate (and former KG-and-Pierce running mate) Ray Allen the other day, saying KG and Pierce owed Allen an apology for leaving Boston for Miami the way he did via free agency in the summer of 2012, you knew Garnett would have a retort.
“Tell LeBron to worry about Miami. It has nothing to do with Celtic business,” Garnett told ESPNNewYork.com’s Mike Mazzeo when asked about any apology being owed to Allen.
James called the ex-Celtics hypocrites for ripping Allen a year before the Big 3 core was torn apart anyway. Garnett and Pierce were traded to Brooklyn after Doc Rivers departed as coach for a front office/coaching gig with the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I think the first thing I thought was, ‘Wow, Ray got killed for leaving Boston, and now these guys are leaving Boston,'” James told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. “I think it’s OK; I didn’t mind it. But there were a couple guys who basically [expletive] on Ray for leaving, and now they’re leaving.
“That’s the nature of our business, man. I don’t know what Boston was going through at the end of the day. I know Ray had to make the best decision for him and his family and his career. Doc [Rivers, former Celtics coach], KG and Paul did that as well. You can’t criticize someone who does something that’s best for their family.”
The circumstances in each case were obviously different. Garnett and Pierce were traded away in a franchise-altering summer for the Celtics, who had clearly decided that the Big 3 era was over and that they had to move on. But I can see where LeBron is coming from in regards to the way Allen was treated. Garnett was particularly brutal, turning his back on Allen instantly.
Allen handled the situation with the class you’d expect from one of the league’s true gentlemen. He didn’t react in kind. And when he helped the Heat win a championship in June, he showed love for his current Heat teammates without rubbing it in the face of his old Boston teammates who had disrespected him with their words and actions last season.
The rhetoric cranked up again earlier this week, though, with both James and Wade weighing in on the new-look Nets prior to Thursday night’s preseason matchup in Brooklyn:
“We all know the world, how it works,” Wade said. “The biggest thing is Ray is happy [in Miami]. If they’re happy in Brooklyn, then let them be happy.
“People say things about people when they do something when they themselves would do the same thing. It’s about putting yourself in the best situation, and at the end of the day, we all do that. You can’t really say anything about someone that does it for themselves.”
All this does is set up what should be the continuation of a fantastic rivalry between some of the league’s best players. This rivalry that could spread not only throughout this regular season, but also into the playoffs — should the Heat and Nets stumble into each other come April or May.
The Nets’ Nov. 1 regular-season home opener is as good a place as any to start.
“They have champions on their team, they have gold medalists on their team, they have guys who have been through a lot,” James said. “It should be fun playing against them throughout the regular season and possibly in the playoffs.”