Ray Allen and Doc Rivers, pondering options (Getty Images)
Everything the Boston Celtics accomplish, in the wake of the team's 2008 NBA championship, is gravy. You can whine and moan over the fact that a triptych featuring Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen "only" won one ring together, and point to some potential lost opportunity as guard Rajon Rondo ascends to an All-Star level, but this was a team built for that year. They won that year. It's 2012, now, and things might as well get weird.
How weird? Like bringing potential Hall of Famer Ray Allen, once he returns from ankle woes that have dogged him for years, off the bench. Off the bench of a team currently ranked 27th in offensive efficiency, in favor a cat named "Avery Bradley," who defends well. Not as some sort of minutes-saving device, mind you, but as a way to keep the C's flowing. It makes no sense to us, but as we stated above, any form of championship contention nearly a half-decade removed from the trades that brought Allen and Garnett to Boston is found money. Here's the haps, from the Boston Globe:
[Boston Celtics coach Doc] Rivers acknowledged Allen might not start. "We've talked about it,'' Rivers said.
Allen said he would accept a bench role.
"Whatever we need to do as a team,'' Allen said. "I think the effort that I've seen over the last week and a half, two weeks, is great. Whatever combinations we work out there, we're all good enough, we're all professional enough, to understand it. We know our plays. We're at a point in the season where everybody knows who each other is. So, remembering plays and positions is second nature now for all of us.''
Boston's offense is a complicated one, so we shouldn't take Allen's "second nature" comment as some way of pointing out that the C's can't be bothered to learn new wrinkles. This is a team that struggles to score, and given the squad's personnel a 27th-ranking sounds about right. The team is ranked second overall in defense, so you'll have to excuse them for not freaking out right now.
Avery Bradley, at just 911 minutes played on the season, isn't exactly a huge part of that defense. He's a fantastic defender, but it's not as if limiting his exposure upon Allen's return will harm Boston's standing on that end of the floor. He's not a scorer, though, or a shooter. He's not even a Mickael Pietrus, a wing stopper/shooter that is still on the shelf after taking a nasty fall over a week ago. Bradley has made just five three-pointers on the year, and if anything he's a converted point guard.
The hoped-for intent would be to make Allen a focus of the team's offense off the bench. A go-to gunner to round off of screens and keep the team afloat while Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett get a blow. Presumably, Allen would be the one finishing games, all while keeping those legs fresh for the playoffs.
This, of course, makes no sense. Even if Allen is the latest in a long line of prominent Boston sixth men, dating back to the days of Frank Ramsey, and including the likes of John Havlicek, Kevin McHale, and Bill Walton. Not Brett Szabo.
It doesn't matter if Allen sits out the first few minutes of the first and third quarters, because he's still going to get his 30-plus minutes per night, and he's still going to work those ankles just as hard going against reserves as he would starters. The Celtic offense isn't dead in the water with Bradley's 9.5 Player Efficiency Rating (15 is average) starting both halves, but it also doesn't really scan well that the team would knowingly put themselves in an offensive hole to start games with Bradley in the starting lineup. And though Bradley far outclasses Allen as a defender, the NBA isn't exactly teaming with Michael Jordans and Joe Dumars' at the shooting guard position any more.
The obvious exception to that rule works down in Miami, where Dwyane Wade plays, and with a Heat team that the Celtics destroyed in Boston on Sunday. Bradley works well against Wade, and Wade works well against Ray Allen. And though the Celtics are ahead in the Atlantic Division right now, the team's remaining schedule is far tougher than the Philadelphia 76ers'. If Philly takes the Atlantic, then the C's will take on the Heat in the first round, and Bradley's presence will be of paramount importance.
It's Ray Allen, though. He's shooting 46 percent from behind the arc, and your team is terrible at offense. If he's able to play, than he's able to start, and gunning sixth men usually don't share the same off-ball style as Ray does. Minutes count, more than starts; but unless Rivers is planning on making Bradley's stints token appearances, this still doesn't jibe well with us.
It's just a discussion, at this point, during a slow NBA day. Let's hope to keep it that way. Hurry back, Ray.
- Ray Allen
- Boston Celtics
- Kevin Garnett
- Avery Bradley
- Paul Pierce