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.

5 reasons the Celtics will get the No. 1 seed

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5 reasons the Celtics will get the No. 1 seed

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Haggerty: Signs of panic starting to show as losses mount for B's

Haggerty: Signs of panic starting to show as losses mount for B's

BOSTON -- For the third straight season, the Bruins are showing all the ugly, telltale signs of a hockey club poised to take a nosedive out of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The short-attention span Bruins returned in a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night at TD Garden, and proceeded to blow three one-goal leads in the second period before totally collapsing in the final 20 minutes of the game. Three unanswered third goals later, the Bruins were understandably downtrodden and accountable for a performance that kicked up so many bad memories from the last couple of seasons.

“We all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and we can’t point fingers. Everyone has to step up and if every guy is going to do their job, including myself, then the rest will follow, you know?” said David Krejci. “But we hadn’t done that [against Tampa Bay] at all. The last two games against Toronto and Ottawa, I thought we worked hard. But for whatever reason [against Tampa] – maybe we thought it was going to come easy – we just shot ourselves in the foot.

“Like I said, each player has to be better, including myself, and if we don’t look at ourselves in the mirror that’s what’s going to happen. We’ll be losing and we need to win games. We have a team, we all believe, we know we can play well. We know we can win hockey games. We have a great game plan, but [against Tampa] I guess we just thought it was going to come easy.”

Even worse there were clear signs of panic in Boston’s game as things unfolded in an unsightly manner on the Garden ice.

Clearly it wasn’t about talent on Thursday night, and instead it was about focus, concentration and paying attention to the fine details that can come back to haunt you late in the season. The Bruins scored three goals in the second period with David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara and Riley Nash each lighting the lamp, but it took 44 seconds, 24 seconds and 1 minute, 35 seconds respectively in the second period for the Bolts to things up.

That’s the kind of instant buckling and crumbling under pressure we’ve seen in the past from the Bruins late in seasons, and we’re seeing it again despite a different coach and some new, hard-nosed players like David Backes. That lack of composure combined with a pinch of panic is a potentially disastrous mix for the Black and Gold, just as it has been for the last three years.

“Those follow up shifts need to be our best shifts of the game. They’re when you can either bury a team, or when you get scored on to have a great response, and to show that you’re not going away [if you’re the team trailing]. I don’t think they were our best shifts. They were probably some of our least [effective] in the form of execution, least form of desperation and fortitude to just impose what we’re going to do on the other team.

[Tampa] certainly made good on their chances, there’s no question about that. But I think we led into them way too much and the result is the result that we don’t get points again. We’re four [losses] in a row here, but this needs to stop Saturday [against the Islanders] or the bleeding starts to get profuse after that. The guys are in this room. We know it. We’ve seen it. We need to look in the mirror.”

It goes beyond a thoroughly gross second period, however.

The Bruins last line of defense, No. 1 goaltender Tuukka Rask, crumbled in the second and third period as things were falling apart around him. Anton Stralman beat him high to the short-side, glove side for the game-tying goal on a transition play, and Jonathan Drouin snapped one past him from the face-off circle that dipped under his glove hand for the game-winner.

It was a soft, inexcusable goal allowed in a hugely important game, and was part of five goals allowed on 28 shots for the former Vezina Trophy winner. After the game Rask seemed frazzled, his voice getting soft and trailing off when it was his turn to accept responsibility for a giant stink bomb tossed down on the Garden ice.

“You have to [pick up the team]. A lot of the time that’s the case, the goalie has to make a couple extra stops there and today I didn’t,” said Tuukka Rask. “That’s part of my job to accept the fact that sometimes it’s your fault. There were a couple of times I should’ve made the save, but it happens sometimes…”

The high pressure situation with things spiraling out of control even seemed to be getting to their best, most established players with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand forcing things down a goal in the third period. Bergeron and Marchand were put back together with David Pastrnak in the second and third periods with Bruce Cassidy looking for answers, and they attempted to execute a D-zone face-off play that’s worked a few times for them in the last few years.

It involves Bergeron winning the draw, and then either Marchand or Pastrnak immediately releasing for a home run pass that can turn into a breakaway opportunity if the opponent is caught napping. Tampa Bay wasn’t caught unaware when the B’s tried it in the middle of the third period, but then Bergeron and Co. kept trying to make it happen.

They ended up icing the puck multiple times trying to make the goal happen in one quick play rather than working for the tying goal, and it killed any momentum they could have possibly started building up for a third period comeback. It also showed a fundamental lack of confidence that they could scratch and claw their way back in on Thursday night, and that’s a definite cause for concern at this time of year.

“At the end of the day, it is a focus, and it’s urgency, and it’s understanding time and score. We did not have a good comprehension of that tonight, I don’t think, and of late,” said Cassidy. “We’ve let games get away, and you can look back, even this year, we’ve had some goals scored against us late throughout the course of the year. It’s been built in this year, and we’re still fighting through it, to be perfectly honest.

“It’s a mindset that we’ve just got to get harder and understand the stakes, and what’s required after you score a goal. I think winning teams get through that, and we’re fighting through it this year. Some nights, we’ve been good at it. We’ve had resiliency, I think. It’s just, lately, it’s creeping in, and we’ve got to nip it in the bud now.”

It hasn’t been just the young players at the heart of this four-game losing streak, and the Tampa loss should have been a wakeup call that the Bruins veterans need to find a way to step up their focus, their effort level and their composure at this time of year. After their fourth loss in a row, the Bruins have frittered away whatever margin for error they once had with just eight games remaining in the regular season.

Their next wrong move will cause a nosedive straight out of the playoffs for the third year in a row, and that will spell changes far and wide on Causeway Street for the Boston Bruins.