CHICAGO For years, Boston Celtics guard Ray Allen has been one of the NBA's best at making sure he was prepared for whatever the game presented.
So when the Celtics first began kicking around the idea of having him come off the bench this season, it was a concept that Allen himself had thought about years ago.
"You could look at guys at the end of their career," Allen said. "And you see I seen when Allen Iverson refused to come off the bench. It (starting games) doesn't change a whole lot, but I understand it. You understand, you've been doing something for so long."
Which is why the concept of coming off the bench for the indefinite future is one that Allen realizes has value for the C's.
Still, that doesn't make it any easier to embrace when you consider Thursday's 93-87 loss to Chicago was just the fifth game in Allen's 15-plus NBA seasons - 1,145 games to be precise - in which he didn't start.
"At the end of the day, your minutes don't change," Allen said. "That's one thing I'm very cognizant of when I'm out there on the floor. It's like an ego thing to start. My ego is not that big where I feel I need to start. But at the same time, I've done this for a long time and I prepared myself and I'd like to consider myself one of the best at what I do and give myself a chance and give the team a chance to win every night. So, it is tough."
Avery Bradley, who replaced Allen in the starting lineup, has maintained all season that it doesn't matter to him if he's a starter or coming off the bench.
But there was no denying both the numbers and letters - W-I-N-S - that the C's were racking up with Bradley as a starter in place of Allen.
In a sense, Allen's willingness to come off the bench was a pre-emptive move on what Doc Rivers said later on, was going to be an inevitable change.
Still, that should not take away from Allen's gesture to come off the bench.
"It just means we're a team; that's it. We're a team," Bradley said. "He wanted what's best for the team. Like I said, it doesn't matter. We don't care who starts. All we care about is winning games."
And having Allen come off the bench in many ways, gives the Celtics the kind of offensive firepower in the second unit that could make the C's bench one of the most lethal come playoff time.
"Ray coming off the bench not only gives us offensive depth, but the second unit, because I run with them a lot, a different diversity when it comes to the offense which is helpful," said Kevin Garnett. "At the same time, it inclines us to move the ball more."
And for a change, the ball may wind up in the hands of Ray Allen for a shot or two.
It's no secret that Ray Allen, maybe more than any other Celtic starter, saw his shot attempts fluctuate greatly from one game to the next.
"The way it's been, that first six, seven minutes I'm kind of floating a bit. That's how it's been the last two months," Allen said. "With the second unit it at least gives me more ability and more opportunity to get more shots and have the ball in my hands a little bit more."
In the loss to the Bulls, Allen had 14 points on 5-for-10 shooting from the field while Bradley, mired with foul trouble, had nine points on 4-for-8 shooting.
One of the reasons Bradley has performed so well when given a chance to play this year, has been because of the many lessons he has learned from the veterans such as Allen. And while their roles may be reversed, Allen still does all that he can to help Bradley to continue improving.
"Avery's role out there, I try to prepare him the best I know how, to kind of be on his toes and ready for whatever may happen," Allen said.
And Allen's role may become even more complicated if Mickael Pietrus (concussion) returns in time for the playoffs.
"We got so many moving parts right now," Allen said.
And it's on Doc Rivers to figure out how to make them all work together, even if it means players like Allen being in unfamiliar roles.
"At the end of the day, this is Doc's ship," Allen said. "Whatever Doc wants and needs for us to do, we have to do it to try and win games.
Allen added, "Having the essence of the team, having the understanding of the team and what direction we're going in, what we want to do to help win - what I need to do to help win - I gotta do whatever. If (coming off the bench is) what Doc wants me to do, if he needs me to do, it's going to be up to him. It's like him drawing up a play. I'm going to go with whatever he feels is necessary to score a bucket or win that game. That's his call."