Allen hopes to keep lasting bond with Celtics
Ray Allen(notes) is closing in on a milestone of sorts. He’s 14 points shy of 20,000 in a career that is now in its 14th season and features an NBA title, nine All-Star appearances and, quite possibly, a ticket punched to Springfield.
”It’s a big number,” Allen conceded. ”To me, it’s a wondrous accomplishment. It’s about staying healthy, taking care of my body, being on a good team. A lot of things. But I’m still working hard every day to get better and I can’t afford to focus on numbers. The more games I can play, the more games we can win, that’s where the focus is. On this team, we don’t pay attention to the individual stuff.”
They do pay attention to the team stuff, though, and the Celtics are 17-4. In Allen’s three years in Boston, the Celtics have gone 19-2, 19-2 and 17-4 in the first 21 games of the season.
Allen still is an important piece of the Celtics’ puzzle, even as he struggles a bit to maintain the scoring he has done over the previous two years. His production has ”dropped” to 15.5 points per game this season, well below his career average of 20.9 and also below his averages in his first two seasons in Boston (17.4 and 18.2.) He has scored 20 or more points in only four of the Celtics’ 21 games.
But he doesn’t worry about individual numbers, so why should anyone else? Doc Rivers worries about only one thing regarding his veteran starting guard: how to keep Allen in Boston beyond this season.
”He is still a terrific player,” Rivers said. ”I think he’ll get better as the season goes along, as he always does. I really anticipate us finding a way to keep him. Listen, we do not want to break this up. If we do what we want to do and win it, we’ll find a way to keep him. I honestly believe that.”
Allen’s contract is up at the end of the season. But you don’t see his name on many ”must-have” or ”marquee” lists of the 2010 free agent class. He’ll be 35 in July, so it’s hard to envision a situation where a team with loads of cap room knocks on his door with duffel bags full of Benjamins at 12:01 a.m. next July 1.
More likely is a deal along the lines of what Jason Kidd(notes) did in Dallas (three years, $25 million) or Steve Nash(notes) did in Phoenix (two years, $22 million), which at least captures the timeline, as Allen said he has every intention of playing two to three more seasons. Looking at him and watching him play, one can easily see that happening.
The only unknown: Where will that be? Rivers wants him to stick around. Danny Ainge, who traded for Allen, wants him to stick around. His teammates want him to stick around. And Allen himself wants to stick around.
Sounds like your proverbial no-brainer.
”It’s a great situation here,” said Allen, who has not missed a game this season and is second in scoring and minutes, both to Paul Pierce(notes). ”I’m a loyal individual. I don’t look at it like, ‘what other teams have cap space and all that.’ My agent will keep me informed as to other potential situations, I’m sure. But this is what I know. My house is here in Boston. I want to do everything I can to make sure I stay here and finish my career out.”
There’s also an added incentive for Allen to try and work something out with the Celtics, beyond the basketball. His son, Walker, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes during the 2008 NBA Finals and is treated at a world-class facility in Boston. Allen knows how critical that is; Walker had to be hospitalized just before a recent Celtics road trip, resulting in Allen nearly missing the Nov. 29 game in Miami.
”My family is comfortable here,” Allen said. ”My son with the diabetes, that’s important. Obviously, I want to be here.”
The fact that Allen had three years remaining on his contract when he came to Boston in June 2007 led many to believe the Celtics had a three-year window to get it done. They did that in Year One, winning the franchise’s 17th NBA title. They might have repeated last season had Kevin Garnett(notes) not gone down for the season with a knee injury. They are right there again this season with the best record in the East (tied with Orlando) and an NBA-best 9-1 record on the road. They will be looking for their ninth straight win in Washington on Thursday night.
Why wouldn’t Allen want to stick around? He’s played in only two other cities and one of those isn’t even in the NBA anymore. As Rivers noted, ”Ray has been around too many bad situations to ever want to leave a good situation. He’s comfortable here. He likes it here. He wants to be here. We got a great group of guys.”
That is why Allen said that while he wants to continue playing well beyond this season, his thought process is focused only on this season.
”We have so much riding on what we’re doing right now,” he said. ”It’s hard to have one foot in and the other one removed. This team can do something great this year, so it’s hard to look past that.”
At some point, Ainge and Allen’s agent, the venerable Lon Babby, will get together and start to crunch some numbers. Eventually, it will get done because everyone wants it to get done and it’s in Allen’s best interest to get it done. He doesn’t want to go to a situation where he’s going to be out of contention by Christmas, even for a few extra dollars. If everyone stays healthy, the Celtics have a chance to be annual contenders for this and maybe a couple more years (that’s assuming that Garnett doesn’t break down from sheer physical exhaustion).
”You have a core,” Rivers said. ”You keep that core as long as you can keep it.”
You can nitpick the slight scoring decline or the fact that his shooting percentage from 3-point territory is down. But that core that Rivers talked about? Ray Allen is at the core of that core.