The Eastern Conference finals between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics is notable for two players not involved: Heat forward Chris Bosh and Celtics guard Avery Bradley. Yet, while those are the high-profile absences, there are also a number of important players trying their best with injuries that would surely keep them out of regular-season contests.
The most obvious is Ray Allen, the most prolific 3-point shooter in NBA history and a key factor in what the Celtics do offensively. Unfortunately, Allen has dealt with some nasty bone spurs in his ankle for months and shows few signs of improving. In 12 playoff appearances, he's shot just 26.8 percent from beyond the arc with a PER of 9.8. Not surprisingly, Boston is having a lot of trouble scoring.
Allen is a professional and wants to play through the pain to help his team. However, things have gotten so bad that Doc Rivers says they're considering sitting him out a game in this series. From an interview with Jackie MacMullan at ESPNBoston.com (via SLAM):
"It's a tough call with him," Rivers said Tuesday afternoon. "We're trying to figure out a different minute rotation for him, maybe that will help him. We're even considering sitting him for a game, getting him a longer rest and then playing him, and then sitting him for a game. We don't know what the right thing is."
There are two ways of thinking about this decision. The first is that, with Allen playing so badly, the risk of losing him for a game isn't so great if he comes back improved in any way for all subsequent games. That goes against most playoff injury logic, though, especially given that Allen still provides a threat — it's awfully hard to reverse the thinking on him as a shooter after so many seasons of dead-eye marksmanship. Even if Allen's not close to his best, his presence could help the Celtics in some way, especially with Bradley out, as well. Forty-plus minutes of Mickael Pietrus isn't the answer to any problem.
With that in mind, it's possible that the Celtics are considering holding out Allen simply because it's the best thing for him in the long run. He's a free agent this summer and possibly won't return to the team. But the Celtics and Allen have also been through so much together over the past five seasons that they might be looking out for what remains of his career. It's a partnership, in other words, and grinding up his ankles just because he's available might not be fair. Allen likely wants to play — he's a fearless competitor — but that doesn't mean it's the smart move.
The Celtics are already down a game in the series, and losing any more players for any amount of time could be a major problem. Despite Allen's struggles, it's not in their best interests to keep him on the bench. Then again, a team's best option isn't always the right move for the player in question. If they don't play Allen, it might be a commendable act.
UPDATE: As reported by Paul Flannery at WEEI.com, the Celtics have decided to play Allen in Game 2 and beyond:
"Not yet. We're good," Rivers said. "Ray is Ray. We're just going to keep rolling him on out there and see what we can get. If we feel like he can't give it to us then we'll go with someone else. Right now, you have to give Ray a fighting chance. Every time. You go into the game and you watch. It's just going to be that way. It's not the easiest thing to do, and it's obviously hard for Ray."
It's a logical decision for a team looking to get any edge it can against the heavily favored Heat. It's an open question as to whether or not the Celtics will maintain this position if the Heat open up a bigger lead in the series, or if Allen continues to struggle so badly.