Young Walker Allen, understandably growing fidgety, caught his father’s eye near the end of Wednesday’s lengthy news conference.
Heat President Pat Riley was going on about how Ray Allen, the boy’s father, just might be “part of a new generation of athletes” who actually become better at their craft as they grow older.
The example ofKareem Abdul-Jabbarwas given.
Allen, who turns 37 later this month and made 45 percent of his 3-point attempts last season, smiled and nodded at his 5-year-old son as Riley held court at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Photos: Check out pictures from the Miami Heat NBA championship parade
From his seat in the second row, just to the right of his mother Shannon and not far from his three brothers, Walker Allen smiled back while flashing a quick thumb’s up to his dad.
He did this with his left hand.
In his right hand, the boy twirled a pair of children’s sunglasses.
Both gestures seemed to fit the mood perfectly as the reigning NBA champions unveiled their two-pronged haul on the first day of free-agent signings.
Rashard Lewis, a deep-shooting big man, was brought in to stretch the defense and create more operating room for the Heat Superfriends.
Allen, who helped Lewis break into the league during their Seattle days, was stolen away from the Celtics to hit those buzzer-beating daggers he’s been throwing at the Heat for too long.
Both men left millions on the table to help the Heat chase a repeat.
In Allen’s case, he also had to leave behind the emotional bonds that tied him to Boston during his highly successful run there over the past five seasons.
“It is sad to me,” Allen said, “knowing I’m not going to be with those guys anymore.”
It’s not just his former teammates that Allen will miss.
It’s the whole extended New England support group of friends and family that the former Connecticut Huskie cultivated through the years, even while spending the first part of his career in Seattle and Milwaukee.
When he was traded to Boston in 2007, he was home.
When Walker was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes during the 2008 NBA Finals, the Allens became deeply involved with Harvard’s Joslin Diabetes Center.
When Walker had another scare during the 2010 Finals, the staff at Joslin was there again to help manage the crisis.
In weighing the reasons to stay or go, his son’s ongoing treatment was a “huge part of it,” Allen said.
It helped when Dr. Lori Laffel, Chief of Pediatrics at Joslin, quickly reassured Ray and Shannon that she would “patch them in immediately” with the best doctors in Miami.
“We’re already on it,” Dr. Laffel, a University of Miami Medical School graduate, told the Allens.
There wasn’t supposed to be another chapter in his basketball career, but now, thanks to circumstances and the Celtics’ preference for young Avery Bradley, Allen has jumped to the Heat.
Can’t blame him for having mixed emotions about that.
“I’ve given so much, not only on the floor but off the floor,” he said. “There’s a sense of sadness and hurt I think the people [in Boston] feel. And we feel that too as a family. We feel the sense of loss that we’ll have not being in that community, and that’s understandable.”
Some back in Boston have stupidly been ripping him as “Judas Shuttlesworth” for leaving the Celtics for the Eastern Conference rival that’s bounced them from the playoffs two years running.
He insisted it doesn’t bother him to be cast as the villain, no doubt hoping most of that anger will blow over by the time he makes his return to Boston.
“I know who I am,” he said. “I know what my everyday goals or tasks are. That’s to raise my kids to be respectful people in this world and to make this team better.”
Two thumbs up to that.