MIAMI — Ray Allen will take less money for a chance at another NBA championship.
Allen told the Miami Heat on Friday night that he intends to accept their contract offer and leave Boston after five seasons, even though the Celtics could pay him about twice as much as the reigning NBA champions will be able to next season. Miami could only offer Allen the mini mid-level, worth about $3 million a year.
Heat owner Micky Arison tweeted the news just after 9:30 p.m., or about 2:30 a.m. Saturday in Europe, where Arison has been for several days.
“I was just woken up with great news,” Arison wrote. “Welcome to the family.” Arison ended the tweet by making mention of Allen’s jersey No. 20, and didn’t mention the NBA’s leading 3-point shooter by name.
A person briefed on details of the decision told The Associated Press that Arison got the word from Heat President Pat Riley, who made Allen the team’s top free-agent priority — especially in recent days. Allen, who will be 37 this month, arrived in Miami on Thursday for a visit, went to dinner with Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra, team executive Alonzo Mourning and others Thursday night, then left Friday to presumably decide his future.
Allen, who made a career-best 45 percent of his 3-point attempts this past season cannot officially sign until Wednesday because of the league’s moratorium.
Allen becomes the latest player to be sold by Riley on the notion of sacrifice since the blockbuster summer of 2010. The Heat convinced LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all to take less money than they could have made elsewhere in that offseason, so there would be enough room left to add players like Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller. Then last summer, Shane Battier accepted a deal that will pay him $3 million annually.,
Wade and James both were involved on some level in the recruitment of Allen. James took to Twitter and Facebook in recent days to let his millions of followers know how much he wanted to see Allen in a Heat uniform, and Wade tweeted on Wednesday that the next day — the one where Allen was visiting — would be a big one for the franchise.
In the end, it appeared that the biggest push — again — came from Riley, who said before free agency started that Miami had identified “five or six” clear targets to add to the roster.
New Orleans Hornets guard Jarrett Jack asked his followers in a tweet about an hour after the Allen story broke if he was “wrong for thinking ray allen is a traitor” for signing with Miami. Even NFL stars were reacting Friday night. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick used the following hashtags on Twitter to describe his reaction to Allen’s decision: “loaded,” ”finalpiece” and “notfair.”
There’s probably more than a few people in Boston who would agree.
Miami is still hoping to add at least one more piece through free agency, and is expected to meet this weekend with Marcus Camby and Rashard Lewis.
Allen was mentioned in some trade possibilities this past season, and eventually lost his starting job to Avery Bradley. Allen needed surgery earlier this offseason to remove bone spurs from his right ankle, though said when the Celtics were ousted from the playoffs by the Heat for the second straight year that his playing days were not over.
“There’s still a lot of basketball left in my legs,” Allen said in Miami not long after the Celtics dropped Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Heat. “I know that for sure. So it’s hard to say what can happen, what may happen.”
Earlier this week, the Celtics reportedly agreed on a $15 million, three-year deal with shooting guard Jason Terry. But Boston also wanted to keep Allen, with general manager Danny Ainge quoted in recent days saying “we really want Ray to come back. Time will tell.”
Miami wanted Allen because of its ongoing quest to keep surrounding James, Wade and Bosh with shooters who extend defenses and therefore create room around the basket for the “Big Three” to attack. That approach worked perfectly for Miami in the playoffs — the Heat were 9-1 when making at least eight 3-pointers in playoff games (7-6 otherwise), and they hit 14 in the finals-clincher over Oklahoma City.
Allen has made an NBA-record 2,718 3-pointers.