Can the Celtics count on Ray Allen this time around?


Can the Celtics count on Ray Allen this time around?

BOSTON Tip-off is several hours away at the TD Garden, and things are quieter than usual.

There are a few ball boys getting up shots, but something's off.

No Ray Allen.

The clearest sign that Allen isn't right health-wise is the fact that he's nowhere to be found. He's not going through his pregame ritual that involves getting up shots - lots of shots - hours before the actual game starts.

Boston has found ways to make due without Allen all season, as evidenced by its 15-4 record in games in which he has not played.

But the C's know all too well that the playoffs are a different kind of animal. For the Celtics to have the kind of sustained playoff run they're hoping for, it becomes an all-hands-on-deck mission - Allen included.

Normally that wouldn't be an issue.

Throughout his 15-plus NBA seasons, there are few who have delivered in the clutch or stepped their game up as well as Allen.

In the eight seasons in which he has been in the playoffs, Allen's scoring average was better in the postseason five times. And of the three times he fell short, he was only off by 0.2 points or less per game.

But he's older now (he turns 37 in July) and has struggled for weeks with a right ankle injury that just won't seem to go away.

When you throw in the fact that he's now coming off the bench -- a role Allen isn't all that crazy about -- it raises lots of questions as to whether the C's can count on him the same way they have in past years . . . even if they themselves won't admit it.

"I don't ever worry about Ray," said Celtics captain Paul Pierce. "We know when he gets his opportunity, Ray will come through. He's been doing it his whole career. I don't expect that to change now."

But this is a different season, and Allen finds himself in a position unlike any he has been in throughout his Hall-of-Fame worthy career.

He is, like most NBA players, a creature of habit.

So, just like not being able to go through his usual pregame routine can throw him off rhythm-wise, you have to wonder if the whole concept of coming off the bench might derail his play some in the postseason.

Although he did approach coach Doc Rivers about coming off the bench, Allen is quick to clear up any ideas that being a sixth man was something he thought of on his own.

"I know it was being talked about a lot," Allen said of his being moved to a backup role. "I can't say that it was my idea. I don't ever want to come off the bench. If it can help the team, Rivers and I talked about it, I said if it can help the team, if that's what he needs me to do, I'll be all for it."

Allen has come off the bench four times this season, with Boston winning three of those four games.

Winning, more than anything else, is why the Celtics felt this move would work and why Allen has been willing to embrace his new role.

Allen's replacement, Avery Bradley, has given the team a defensive presence it simply lacked from Allen. And with Bradley's offensive game steadily improving, Bradley's defense and scoring contributions have come pretty darn close to filling the massive void left with Allen out of the lineup.

As for his play as a reserve, it's clear he becomes more of a focal point offensively with the second unit as opposed to being with the starters.

But statistically speaking, Allen's doing essentially the same things he did with the first unit.

For the season, he's averaging 14.2 points per game and gets 10.7 shot attempts. In the four games he came off the bench, he's averaging 14.3 points per game while averaging 11 shot attempts.

"At the end of the day, your minutes don't change," said Allen, who averaged 34 minutes as a starter, 31.8 coming off the bench. "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'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. At the end of the day, this is Doc's ship. Whatever Doc wants and needs for us to do, we have to do it to try and win games."

But it remains to be seen if he'll physically be able to be one of those guys Rivers counts on in the playoffs to indeed help the Celtics advance past the Atlanta Hawks.

Rivers has maintained for weeks that he fully expects Allen to play in the postseason, shooting down any comparisons to the Shaquille O'Neal situation last season when O'Neal was limited to just 12 minutes in the playoffs because of an injury (calf) that never seemed to heal as well as it needed in order for him to play.

"I don't think it's quite the same, but there's a small similarity," C's president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, told "I think Shaq, in February of 2011, we thought he was going to be back. But in late March, we had serious doubts. We had hope, but we were still worried.

"Ray is not quite there yet. I think he's going to be back. I think he's going to have a great playoff run. That's what I think and believe, but at the same time, until he's doing it, I'll be worried."

The trio of Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett have been praised for how they have stepped their game up after the All-Star break to propel the Celtics to a fifth straight Atlantic Division title.

But Ainge recalls how Allen carried the Celtics early in the year when no one other than Rondo was playing particularly well.

"We might not have won any games had Allen not been making shots," Ainge said. "He was shooting the best of his career through the first 25 games. The team wasn't playing great, so people forget the impact that Ray was having for us early in the year."

Even though his numbers have cooled down, he's still shooting a career-best 45.3 percent on 3s this season.

"Ray was the guy that carried us the first half of the year, shooting 55 percent for the longest time, carrying us with his 3-point shooting early in the season when KG wasn't playing very well and Paul was hurt and sort of out of shape, not playing well," Ainge said. "Now those guys have really stepped it up, Ray's hurt."

Regardless of how he has played of late and his injury status, Ainge has seen enough of Allen to know that it probably won't be too much longer before Allen is back on the floor, hours before tip-off at the Garden, taking shots and getting ready to make some playoff noise.

Young understands work isn't done after claiming Celtics final roster spot

Young understands work isn't done after claiming Celtics final roster spot

WALTHAM, Mass. – For so many years the game of basketball came easy – almost too easy – for James Young.

He stood out on a young Kentucky team that played at the highest levels, delivering the kind of performances as an 18-year-old college freshman that catapulted him into the first round of the NBA draft.

To be so young and already having achieved a childhood dream, to be in the NBA, Young was too young to realize how quickly the dream could become a nightmare if he didn't put in the necessary work.

The past couple of weeks have not been easy for Young, aware that the Celtics were torn as to whether they should keep him around this season or waive him.

They choose the former and instead waived his now-ex teammate R.J. Hunter, on Hunter’s 23rd birthday no less.

One of the first acts Young said he planned to do following Monday's practice was to reach out to Hunter, offer words of encouragement to a player he looked upon as a brother, a brother who is in a state of basketball limbo right now which could have easily been the latest chapter in James Young’s basketball narrative.

And that’s why as happy as Young is to still be donning the Green and White, his work towards proving himself to this team, to this franchise is far from done.

You listen to veterans like Jae Crowder, a second-round pick who has come up the hard way in the NBA, they speak of how Young now takes the game more serious.

Even Young acknowledged that he didn’t take the NBA game and the need to work at staying in the league as serious as he should have initially.

“I wasn’t playing as hard (early on),” Young admitted. “I just was satisfied being where I was, being too comfortable. My confidence was down. I have to change that around.”

Crowder, a straight-no-chaser kind of fellow, said as much when I asked him about the changes he has seen in Young.

“He’s taking stuff a little more serious,” Crowder said. “It’s growing up. He came in as a first-round draft pick and was on the borderline of getting cut. I don’t know what else is going to wake you up.”

That’s part of what made this decision so difficult and on some levels, left players with mixed emotions about the decision.

For those of us who followed this team through training camp, there was no question that Young had the better camp.

But the one thing that was never questioned with Hunter, was his work ethic. He made his share of mistakes and missed more shots than a player with a sharpshooter's reputation should, but you never got a sense it had anything to do with him not working as hard as he needed to.

That was among the more notable issues with Young who came into the league as an 18-year-old. That youth probably worked for him as opposed to Hunter who played three years of college basketball and was expected to be seemingly more NBA-ready.

Even though Hunter’s NBA future is on uncertain ground now, he’s too young and too talented to not get at least one more crack with an NBA team.

And by Boston waiving him, he really does become a low-risk, high-reward prospect that an NBA team might want to take a closer look at with their club. 

And Young remains a Celtic, doing all that he can to climb up the pecking order which now has him as the clear-cut 15th man on the roster.

He might see more minutes than rookie Demetrius Jackson and possibly second-year forward Jordan Mickey, but Young’s future with the Boston Celtics is still on relatively thin ice.

“I told him this morning, this might be the first time he’s earned anything in his life,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations.  “He earned this by his play, day-in and day-out. He was given a lot as a young kid with a lot of promise, a lot of potential. We talked about earlier this summer, he had to come out and win a spot with some good competition and he did. He needs to keep doing what he’s doing.”

More than anything else, Young has been consistent in his effort, overall energy and attention to detail. But it remains to be seen if Young has done all that to just secure a roster spot, or has he truly grown up and figured out what has to be done in order to be an NBA player.

Celtics break ground on new practice facility


Celtics break ground on new practice facility

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- When it comes to finding ways to attract the best talent, colleges and universities often seek to upgrade their training facilities as an enticement to prospective players.
So why should it be any different at the pro level?
The Boston Celtics had a groundbreaking ceremony Monday morning for The Auerbach Center at New Balance Headquarters.
“When you think he was hired in 1966 and they’re still honoring him, it’s very humbling,” said Randy Auerbach, Red’s daughter.
New Balance officials echoed similar sentiments about the legendary Red Auerbach, the architect of arguably the greatest dynasty in professional basketball.
“Red Auerbach was a true entrepreneur whose passion for winning and dedication to the sport of basketball and the Boston Celtics was equally matched with his commitment to people and his local community,” said Jim Davis, Chairman and Owner at New Balance.  “New Balance is extremely proud to join with the Boston Celtics in honoring his professional achievements and personal values through ‘Red’s House’ at our Boston world headquarters.”
Celtics president Rich Gotham cited several benefits to moving the team to a state-of-the-art practice facility closer to Boston.
Among the reasons given was the potential for the practice facility to be a potential enticement for free agents.
“Players spend more time in the practice facility than they do in the arena they play in certainly, and maybe more than they do at home,” Gotham said. “So having a place where they feel comfortable, a place where they want to spend time to improve themselves across the board … it’s all coming together in a pretty big way. The best players know it’s integral to their success that make sure that support is there, that infrastructure is there. So when we’re out talking to a player, we’re going to be talking about this practice facility we’re building. Because we do think it’s an important part of our story.”
Some of the features of the new practice facility will include:
·  Two state-of-the-art parquet floor basketball courts where the team will practice
·  Leading edge audio-visual technology throughout the facility
·  Expanded strength and conditioning, training, and recovery facilities
·  Best-in-class locker rooms and players’ lounge
·  Physical therapy areas including hydrotherapy pools
·  Sports science and nutrition facilities
·  Expanded media work room, press conference and broadcast facilities
·  A flexible hospitality area designed for community relations activities, partner gatherings and other guest events
·  Work space for the team’s coaching and basketball front office staffs
While the facility will have all the bells and whistles you would come to expect in a new facility, Gotham said there will be a balance of sorts struck between that and the franchise’s longstanding history.
“What will be clear is it will be … at that intersection of, which is a strange intersection, of innovation but honoring our tradition,” Gotham said. “This will be a building that’s state-of-the-art, moving forward. But at the same time, I think one of the things we’re lucky to have is this treasure trove of great guys who came before us who left great wisdom and great quotes. You can see a lot of that built in. Coach Stevens is big on having motivational phrases around for the guys to see every single day when they come in for practice. If those come from Red Auerbach and Bill Russell, all the better. You’ll see us incorporating those kind of things.”