Celtics' Allen contemplates future roles in NBA

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Celtics' Allen contemplates future roles in NBA

BOSTON -- Prior to the start of his third game off the Boston Celtics bench, Ray Allen discussed a series of possible scenarios affecting his future in the NBA.

Allen, 36, had started in nearly every game of his 16-year career before becoming part of the Celtics second unit last Thursday following his return from an ankle injury.

While it remains to be seen if second-year guard Avery Bradley will keep the starting job for the rest of the season, Allen has to prepare to adjust to a new role.

I dont think it can happen for me to ultimately be comfortable with these 11 or so games we have left because none of us are getting into routines as far as settling in and what are roles are, getting practice time, understanding rotations and chemistry, Allen said prior to the Celtics 103-79 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in which he scored 10 points in 28 minutes off the bench. You just adapt the best way you can.

It is not unusual for players in the point of Allens career to transition to the bench. Allen, though, is one of the best conditioned athletes in the league among any age group. When looking at the group of veterans on the Celtics, he seemed like the last to be moved to the reserves.

But Allen is realistic. He has conditioned his body to feel years younger than his actual age throughout his entire career. At the same time, he isnt going to force himself into a position in which he is not performing to his maximum abilities. This season he missed three games with a jammed left ankle and six with a sore right ankle.

I think my challenge is to be able to compete at a high level every year I come into a season, and that means competing for a starting job every opportunity I get, Allen said. Thats my focus and thats my goal. But if I felt as though I wasnt playing up to that level and those standards, then I think theres going to be a point where Id have to say its time for me to move on.

A lot has been talked about. Like, I keep myself in great shape but I dont want to do it to the point where Im running myself into the ground. I dont want to say, hey, 'I have no more left in me.' I want to be able to say, 'I have it left in me and I can walk away from it.'

The possibility of a new role goes beyond this season. Allen will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. When asked how many more years he thinks he can be a starter, Allen said that decision depends on the needs of the teams he signs with.

I think the team that I play on dictates that possibility, he said. I think thats really probably the bigger question.

The fact that Allen is discussing a new role on the bench is an example of the unpredictability of this NBA season. It is the first time in his career with the Celtics that he isnt playing alongside Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo in the starting unit -- I think I just emotionally try not to worry about it or look at it that way, he said -- another facet of the unexpected turn of events.

Honestly, you never know, Allen said when asked if he thought at the start of the season he would be discussing a move to the bench in April. You never look at it or rule anything out because there are so many possibilities. Like you go into a season, you never think about being traded. A lot of players that are in different situations, you end up with new area codes and with a new house you never thought youd live in. So that always throws you for a loop.

Around here, you have to be ready to adapt. One, you cant get comfortable, and two, youve got to be ready to adapt to whatever changes are thrown your way, whether its you get a new teammate, you get a new coach, you get anything around here. You have to be ready to adjust to it.

Facing so many uncertainties, being able to adjust is something Allen is certain about.

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

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Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Avery Bradley was a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team a year ago. And Al Horford has been among the league’s best interior defenders for a number of years.

But as talented defensively as they may be, the Celtics are still learning how to play with each other as well as off of one another.

Injuries have slowed down the chemistry developing as quickly as some might expect. Horford missed nine games due to a concussion, and another game due to wife giving birth to their second child, Alia Horford.

And in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night, defensive chemistry -- not only among Horford and Bradley, but with all of the players -- remains a work in progress for sure.

Boston had a number of defensive issues in the first half which factored in the Sixer shooting 46.1 percent from the field while shooting 9-for-18 from 3-point range.

But the second half was an entirely different story as Boston’s defense picked up his intensity and focus level which would prove to be just enough to beat a scrappy Sixers team.

The Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland (13-5) and Toronto (14-6). 

And while the players point to a handful of games that they felt they gave away, Avery Bradley reminds all that the success of this team this season has for the most part come with key players out of the mix or limited in some capacity.

“We haven’t played that many games with the full roster,” Bradley told reporters after the win. “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”

Bradley pointed out a moment in Saturday’s victory where a miscommunication between him and Horford led to a defensive miscue.

Boston has had similar mistakes made on offense this season, too.

“We haven’t really been in pick-and-roll that much,” Bradley said. “Every single game we need to improve.”

And that improvement has to continue evolving on the defensive side of things for this team to achieve its goals this season which include being among the last teams standing in the East.

Doing that will likely mean Boston re-establishing itself as a defensive force, something that should come with time and experience playing with each other.

Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston in the offseason, says it’s an ongoing process for all involved.

“I have to learn to play with our concepts, the guys have to learn to play with me,” Horford told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We just have to make sure we keep playing the right way, be more consistent with that. I feel like we’re getting better but there’s still some work that we need to do.”

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

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Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

The pressure that comes with a tight game in the fourth quarter can be a weighty proposition for some NBA players.

Then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who continues to save his best work for the fourth quarter.

Saturday’s 107-106 win at Philadelphia had yet another Thomas-like finish for the Celtics as the 5-foot-9 guard was at his most dominant state in the game’s final minutes.

Thomas finished with a season high-tying 37 points which included a stretch in the fourth in which he scored 12 straight.

“I just love the fourth quarter,” Thomas told reporters following the win. “I just want to win. Whether it’s making plays for myself or making plays for my teammates, it’s about making the right play. I get ultra- aggressive in that fourth quarter. That’s what I’ve always done.”

And his teammates appreciate how Thomas elevates his play in the game’s most pivotal moments.

“A lot of the credit is to Isaiah, how he was able to finish the game tonight,” said Avery Bradley. “He was able to make shots when we needed him to.”

And while Thomas knows his shots won’t fall all the time down the stretch, his fourth quarter mentality does provide him with a level of confidence that no matter what the defense does to him or what the score may be, he can swing the game’s momentum in his team’s favor.

“Some guys get a little tight, they get a little timid (in the fourth quarter),” Thomas said. “I embrace it. I want to be great. I want to be somebody my teammates can call on when the game is close.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday night’s game.

STARS

Isaiah Thomas: There was no more dominant player on Saturday night than Thomas. He finished with a game-high 37 points along with seven assists.

Dario Saric: It was a breakout game for the 22-year-old rookie who led the Sixers with 21 points as well as 12 rebounds for his third double-double this season. Both his points and rebound totals tied his career highs in those categories.

STUDS

Avery Bradley: Boston’s surge towards victory did not kick in until the third quarter which is when Bradley elevated his play offensively. In the third he scored 10 of his 20 points on the night, to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.

Ersan Illyasova: He finished with 18 points which included a pair of three-pointers in the closing seconds of the game. He also grabbed six rebounds and two assists.

DUDS

Celtics first half defense: There wasn’t much to like about Boston defensively in the first half. The Celtics struggled to take away or limit Philadelphia’s only strength Saturday night which was three-point shooting. The Sixers nailed nine of their 18 three-point attempts in the first half in addition to hurting the Celtics’ transition defense which gave up seven fast-break points to Philly compared to Boston scoring just one point in transition.