NEW YORK The Celtics are about as whole as they'll ever be with Ray Allen returning to the lineup tonight against the New York Knicks.
Allen has missed the last four games with swelling in his right ankle, the same injury that sidelined him for six games earlier this season.
While Allen was out, head coach Doc Rivers said on more than one occasion that if it were a playoff game, Allen likely would have been able to play.
"There were times when I thought that," Allen said. "And probably still give it a go. But there were days when I just couldn't (play) just based on the lack of mobility and the swelling that I had in it."
He added, "It sounds good to say I would have went, because I would have tried to go. Just with what I would have been able to do, it wouldn't have been smart if I went."
The fact that he re-injured the ankle twice in a short period of time, and given his history of ankle surgeries, questions were raised as to whether he was dealing with an injury more serious than ankle swelling.
However, Allen said MRI results showed no structural damage.
The injury taking longer to heal, he said, was more of a function of him playing on it longer than he should have in addition to trying to come back too soon.
"It just never had a chance to heal," Allen said. "Once I turned it twice within two games, I was just on it. The way I run, going up and down, I just never gave it a chance to go away (the swelling). I want to play and I want to test my body, but certain times you just have to give it a chance (to heal)."
While Allen's return is certainly welcomed, there's no guarantee that a game or two from now he won't have to deal with the same injury.
However, having the long layoff provides a much better chance that the swelling in the ankle won't be an issue anytime soon.
"I was making sure I took every precaution, moving forward," Allen said.
His return has been one his teammates have been looking forward to, even if it may come at the expense of them losing some minutes on the floor.
"We're a family, always pulling for one another, so that's the first thing," C's guard Avery Bradley told CSNNE.com recently. "And we're so much better a team when he's with us. For us, we need everybody healthy, playing their game, to have a good run in the playoffs."