By Simon Evans
MIAMI (Reuters) - Making his Miami Heat debut against the team he left after five seasons, Ray Allen was determined to show his old Boston Celtics team mates that he was still friends, but the feeling was not exactly mutual.
As he got ready to enter the opening game of the season between the two Eastern Conference rivals, Allen, who went on to score 19 points from the bench in Miami's 120-107 win, went over to the Celtics bench to greet the players and staff.
It was a surprisingly bold gesture but it appeared to be welcomed by Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, who embraced Allen in a courtside hug.
Rivers has been critical of the way Allen left the Celtics, rejecting their offer to go to Miami reportedly for half the money being offered by Boston, but whatever bad feelings he had were not evident in the warm way he received the guard.
The same could not be said, however, for Celtics center Kevin Garnett, an NBA champion with Allen and under Rivers in 2008.
Allen tapped Garnett on the shoulders but received no reaction at all and other Celtics players showed little response.
"He didn't react, but you guys know K.G.," Allen told reporters after the game.
"Did you expect him to react? I don't take anything from it. Kevin is an intense competitor, on the bench he is in a different world, a different zone and the five years I played with him, you just have to respect that," he said.
"It was more my peace offering. You never know what is said through the media... I deal with people, with what say face-to-face and that was an opportunity to say I appreciate everything you guys have done for me because you've held a special place in my career and my heart.
"You can be angry at me but that's not going to change how I feel about you," he said.
There have been reports that Garnett no longer talks to Allen after his switch to their biggest rivals in the Eastern Conference, which some will no doubt link to Tuesday's snub.
It was left to Allen's team mates to respond in more marked terms to Garnett's behavior and the performance of their new acquisition on court.
"He is a true professional. He let his game do all the talking," said last season's MVP LeBron James, who knows all about bad blood after his acrimonious departure from Cleveland to Miami.
"He did what he wanted to do for his career, that shouldn't change a friendship," he said.
Chris Bosh, who received his share of criticism for leaving the Toronto Raptors to become part of Miami's 'Big Three' said Allen should not be criticised for looking after his career.
"I know that everything can get caught up in the whirlwind. People are passionate about sports but it is a business first," he said.
Not surprisingly Allen received a warm welcome from his new Miami fans but James, who was insulted all night on his first return to Cleveland, reminded him it would be a more hostile crowd when he returns to Boston in January.
"It will be a different atmosphere once he returns to Boston, I guarantee you that," James said with a grin.
(Editing by John O'Brien)