For the first time since 1996, something is missing from the landscape of the National Basketball Association.
It's pretty obvious what it is.
It's missing Ray Allen: the NBA's all-time leader in three-pointers made. And the fact is, no one is quite sure if - much less where - he will play again.
Allen was a dominant force in the NBA for many years. He made his money as a scorer and shooter for the Bucks, Sonics and Celtics and his career turned into a story of one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. Then, over the past few years with the Miami Heat, Allen began to take a back seat, but one he excelled in. He transformed his career from being a star - or a member of a Big Three - to being a successful role player as an off-the-bench shooter.
Surely, just seven months removed from his last successful NBA three-pointer made, Allen can still assist a team in that department and give a playoff team five to nine points-per-game.
But will he?
Over the summer, Chris Broussard of ESPN reported the following about the sniper from behind the arc:
Ray Allen has told people close to him that he will play in the NBA next season instead of retiring, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
While the Cleveland Cavaliers are the frontrunner for Allen, the source said the 10-time All-Star has not completely decided where he will play. Cleveland is the favorite due to the return of LeBron James, with whom Allen played with on the Miami Heat the past two seasons. ...
At 39 years old, Allen's goal is to win a third NBA championship so he will only consider playing for title contenders. It is not clear what other clubs are on Allen's radar, but nearly every contender would be interested in adding him to its roster.
Near the end of that article, Broussard quotes Allen saying: "It's August and I don't want to rush to judgment. I want to get to September and see how I really feel."
Well now it's January and Allen has yet to appear on an NBA roster. He's yet to appear for even a workout. And he has yet to appear on the Twitter feeds of the Broussard's, Stein's and Woj's of the world.
So is Allen done?
He seemed like it in an interview back in August with Don Amore of the Hartford Courant:
"I'm not in any rush [to make a decision]," Allen said during a break in the Citi Ray Allen Basketball ProCamp at East Granby High on Saturday morning. "I've played 18 years, and the way I look at my career, I'm content with everything that I've done. I just want to take this summer and see how it goes." ...
"To continue playing, really, the only argument is I can because I'm in great shape," Allen said. "But just because you can doesn't mean you have to. Many people over these last couple of weeks have lobbied for me to continue to play. ... My argument for not playing is, I have done a significant amount in my career and I appreciate everything that has come my way and as I've gotten older, I'm 39, there are so many things in life I want to be able to do to affect change - like being around kids full time, which I enjoy.
"So at this point I just feel so good about where I am."
So what if Allen is done?
Then that's just fine. He doesn't owe fans or the game anything. He's a two-time champion, the game's all-time leader in three-point shots made and will be remembered for numerous numbers of clutch shots. In a few years, he'll be a first-ballot inductee into the Hall of Fame and he'll be remembered amongst the greatest of shooters, clutch performers, and shooting guards of all-time (and he's JESUS SHUTTLESWORTH!).
But what if he isn't done? What if a playoff team makes an offer to sign the shooter very soon? Who would make an offer? Where would he fit in?
The answer is simple. There are three likely destinations for Allen if he so chooses to sign up for professional basketball this season. They are the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Washington Wizards.
The Cavaliers are attractive for obvious reasons. He'd be reuniting with former teammates LeBron James, James Jones, and Mike Miller, while also showing a roster that has championship potential with stars like Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.
But the Cavs could also appear unattractive. For one, Allen's position on the roster is a crowded one. Are there enough minutes to split between he, Miller, Iman Shumpert, and J.R. Smith? Are there enough shots to be split between those four plus LeBron, Kyrie and Love? Probably not.
The Cavs are also in a bit of a mess right now. Their coach is being doubted, LeBron is hurt - for now - and Love is having one of the worst seasons of his career. Although, perhaps signing Allen is more likely for the Cavs seeing as how they just cleared a roster spot by cutting AJ Price.
Well, how about the Clippers?
They're attractive too, but they don't necessarily need a shooter like Allen with guys like Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick, and others on the roster. They certainly wouldn't be the team who could offer Allen the biggest contract either, which, at this point in his career probably isn't too important but hey, money is money. It's also no secret that this Clippers team doesn't absolutely love playing with each other, so while reuniting with Doc Rivers would make for a good story, perhaps L.A. isn't the best fit for the 39-year-old shooting guard.
Another reunion would make for a good story too. There is an opportunity in the nation's capital for Allen to reunite with an original member of Boston's Big Three in Paul Pierce.
Signing with the Washington Wizards makes the most sense. One, he'd be playing in the eastern conference, which presents a much easier path to reach the finals than say, joining the Clippers in the west. Secondly, he'd be playing with a young star guard in John Wall who excels at getting shooters open looks - he's gotten two players big contracts because of it (see also: Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster). Third, he'd be reuniting with Pierce who has been a bit more friendly in the media when talking about Allen than the other third of their Big Three - Kevin Garnett - had been.
Finally, Washington's roster presents the opportunity for Ray to see the most amount of time on the court. The shooting guard position isn't a crowded one: Bradley Beal starts and then players like Webster and others rotate in and out between there and the three spot while Beal is on the bench. Glen Rice Jr. was in the mix too, but since waiving him on Monday, there is an open roster spot on the Zards that they have yet to fill.
Also, the Wizards on their way to a top-four seed in the playoffs and have better records currently than that of the Cavaliers or Clippers.
Earlier this week, CSN-Washington reporter J. Michael reported this:
Ray Allen is not out of the picture. He still hasn't given an answer about his intention to play again, but two people on separate sides of the matter have said the Wizards have made "routine" contact -- using this exact word -- since first expressing their interest in July. Until Allen says, "I'm retired" or "No thanks," the Wizards will continue to chase him.
So for the Wizards and Allen, the chase is on. Maybe he signs, maybe he doesn't, but whatever he decides he should do it soon before teams move on and find other players to fill out their rosters.
Then again, any playoff team would gladly make the addition of Ray Allen to their roster seconds before a game seven of the NBA Finals if they could.