Allen still up to his old tricks in Heat uniform

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Allen still up to his old tricks in Heat uniform

MIAMI As much as Tuesday night's Boston-Miami game was about the Heat getting their championship bling for what they accomplished last season, it was just as much a coming out party of sorts for former Celtic Ray Allen with his new team.

Allen didn't disappoint his new fans in helping Miami kick off the new season with a 120-107 victory over the Celtics.

In a role similar to the one he had near the end of the season in Boston - coming off the bench - Allen had 19 points on Tuesday which included a handful of shot clock buzzer-beaters - a Ray Allen staple.

While the Heat certainly love what Ray can do as a player, the focus for many was on how Allen would interact with his former team; specifically Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo.

When Allen entered the game in the first quarter, Ray Allen made his way towards the Celtics bench - his first interaction with his former team since signing with the Miami Heat.

After a brief embrace with Doc Rivers and the C's assistant coaches, Allen tapped Garnett's shoulder - he was on the bench resting at that point - to which Garnett did not reply or even acknowledge the contact.

"You guys know KG. Did you expect him to react?" Allen told a large crowd after the game that included Boston-area media. "I don't take anything from it. Kevin is, he's an intense competitor. On the bench, he's in a different world, a different zone. The five years I played with him, you have to respect that."

Said Garnett: "Understand I am an intense person. Other than that, I drew a blank. I just saw the Heat (jersey) in front of him. Obviously he's on the other side. I just try to play the game, man."

And apparently so does Allen, who hurt the C's with many of the same big shots that he helped them win with during the past five seasons.

His first shot, as if it was part of a Hollywood script, was a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the corner.

Allen would go on to hit a couple more buzzer-beaters for good measure.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was not only impressed with Allen's play, but even more so the poise he displayed in what was clearly an uncomfortable position to be in at the start of the season.

"I'm sure it had to be very emotional for him in terms of a lot of things that he was feeling," Spoelstra said. "We wanted to win this game for a lot of different reasons. We wanted to do it because it was ceremony night, but we talked about it, when we acquire new players they inherit everything that we've experienced, but we inherit also whatever they've experienced and we wanted to win for our brother."

But as much as Allen is at peace with his decision to be part of the Heat family, he at times found himself forgetting that he's no longer a Celtic.

"It was very strange," Allen said. "A couple times I would see somebody running down the floor, and I had to ask myself, 'who was I guarding? Which team was I guarding?' Because I'm looking at both jerseys and my inclination was to guard the Miami jersey but I caught myself."

Well, he caught himself most of the game.

"I think one time I gave Brandon Bass dap one time he was running down the floor. I had to catch myself," Allen said. "My brain right now has to be switched over."

Rivers was among the many Celtics to praise Allen for a solid performance.

"Ray was terrific," Rivers said. "He went (to his) right all game and we allowed him to, but he made a lot of shots."

Said Bass: "It was good seeing Ray. Ray Allen was a great player here (in Boston) and a great guy in the locker room.

That said, Bass added, "we wanted to beat him, but it didn't happen."

Rivers was surprised Allen was open from the corner the first time he checked into the game, of which Allen made them pay.
 
"You would think we would know better," Rivers said.

Allen knocking down shots is not a surprise.

That's kind of what you come to expect from a player who has made more three-pointers than anyone in NBA history, and has established himself as a virtual lock for the NBA Hall of Fame if Father Time ever catches up to him.

The unknown heading into the game had to deal with Allen's interactions with his old teammates.

"Regardless of how they feel, I have nothing but great things, warm sentiments going in their direction," Allen said. "You could be angry at me, but that's not going to change how I feel about you."

Haggerty: It's time for Pastrnak to take a step forward

Haggerty: It's time for Pastrnak to take a step forward

BRIGHTON -- The third season is usually a pivotal one when it comes to an NHL player's development and trying to forecast exactly how high their ceiling will be.

So it is for David Pastrnak, who is expected to take a major leap forward in his third year after showing flashes of great promise in each of his first two seasons.

“The [World Cup] is done, so now all of my focus is on being as ready as I can for this upcoming season,” said Pastrnak, 20, who threw probably the biggest hit of his career on unsuspecting teammate Patrice Bergeron when the Czechs played Team Canada in the preliminary rounds. “I feel way bigger, very comfortable on the ice, and I obviously feel really good right now.”

Pastrnak has had moments of dazzling brilliance in Boston so far while riding the usual learning curve that every young player travels in Claude Julien’s system. In addition, injuries last season sidetracked his development process.

Pastrnak put up 21 goals and 55 points between Boston and Providence as the youngest player in either league as an 18-year-old rookie two years ago. Last season he had 15 goals and 26 points in 51 games for the Bruins while also missing significant time because of a fractured foot. The injury not only sidelined him for a few months but also made it difficult for him to jump onto the moving train of the NHL regular season once he was ready to return.

Just as the former first-round pick was really catching fire at the end of the year, time ran out on a Bruins team that had a few too many older veterans with empty gas tanks after being ridden hard throughout the season. Pastrnak scored goals in each of the final couple of games, and showed off the game-breaking ability that should be on full display if he's healthy and placed in a position to succeed.

His World Cup stint ended on a high note, as he played his best game of the tourney against Team USA, though he didn’t make a major impact in the elite international competition. He put on five pounds of muscle during the offseason and clearly looking bigger and stronger at 189 pounds after ending last season closer to 180.

Part of that is the natural physical maturation process for somebody Pastrnak’s age as he gain’s “man strength”, and some of it was a dedicated effort. He worked out in Boston with the B’s training staff for much of the summer for the first time in his career.

The expectation is that Pastrnak is going to be running on the right wing with David Krejci on Boston’s second line, and the search in training camp is for a left wing who can bring added playmaking ability and maybe a little size and strength to the mix. In a perfect world Krejci and Pastrnak will develop into the same dynamic, two-way combination of Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

Pastrnak and Krejci could be a lethal offensive duo to be sure, but they’ll also have to pay attention to the little details if they want to stay together playing for Julien. Perhaps with that in mind, Julien was looking to temper expectations for Pastrnak

“I don't know if [the World Cup experience] accelerates expectations. But it's certainly encouraging to see that a guy that's got that experience to go and play at that level, and made himself better,” said Julien. “We know he's skilled and we know he's fast, and he's also gotten stronger. He's taking steps in the right direction here. We can look at those guys that are first overall picks and say, wow, some guys are exceptional.

“Some of the guys, you've got to give them time to grow and develop. That's what we need to do with David Pastrnak. I think we've got to stop putting expectations too high for him, and allow him to grow properly. He's going to have some growing pains and there are still some things he's going to want to get better at. There are still some things that he's going to want to learn that we're going to want to teach him. Let's give him that opportunity to grow properly without the extra pressure and extra expectations that maybe are not realistic.”

One would argue Pastrnak put those expectations on himself when he posted the 21 goals and 55 points as an 18-year-old, but that’s neither here nor there. Instead, the Pastrnak development project can, and should, be one of the things considered when we evaluate Julien’s current ability to get the most out of his young prospect-type players.

The bottom line with Pastrnak and the Bruins is this: It’s his contract year and motivation should be sky high. The Czech youngster is one of the few people who can step up and help fill the offensive void left by the free-agent departure of Loui Eriksson. Expectations are much higher for an experienced, talented 20-year-old than they are for a wide-eyed 18-year-old, and Pastrnak needs to make a big stride forward. Now is the time for Pastrnak to show all he’s learned, and completely unleash the array of offensive skills that caught everybody’s eye in the first place.

The Bruins need Pastrnak, and young players, to step up and start taking ownership of the hockey team.