Heat bolster title defense with Allen

Being a "contender" in the NBA world is in some ways a self-fulfilling prophecy: Players will flock to a team perceived as one and flock away from one perceived as being a bit short of what it takes.

That matters today because, for the first time in five years, we may have seen a player put the Boston Celtics in the second group and not the first. Ray Allen agreed to terms with Miami, taking half as much money to join a team with a better chance of winning. While I'm sure there were plenty of other issues that went into it -- choose among golf, sun, minutes, and residual grievances -- one possible takeaway was that he was so convinced the Heat were better that it was worth it to him to take half the money.

This is nothing new, of course -- veterans have been chasing rings by signing discount deals with contenders for eons. That's how P.J. Brown helped Boston win a title, how Shane Battier helped Miami win one, and how assorted other veteran castaways have landed on the rosters of both squads in recent seasons.

The difference now is that Boston's membership in that group has been questioned. Not by everybody, perhaps -- Jason Terry jumped from another fringe contender, Dallas, to join Boston, and Kevin Garnett has already agreed to come back -- but for the first time we see tinges of doubt.