On basketball

Score one for the good guy

Celtics’ Allen on verge of 20,000-point club

By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / December 10, 2009

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Good guys can finish first, indeed. Ray Allen needs 14 points to reach 20,000 and could get them tonight in Washington against the Wizards. Allen would become the 37th player to reach that milestone in a career that has had its share of adversity.

Three seasons ago, Allen had surgeries to remove bone spurs from both ankles. It seems that Allen, who follows a strict diet and played at a lighter weight in his ninth season than in his rookie year, had encountered his downfall - faulty ankles.

The man who depended on lift to drain 3-pointers was relegated to crutches for several weeks. As soon as he was allowed to work out, Allen was running sprints on a practice court, preparing himself for a return to the SuperSonics.

Danny Ainge trusted that Allen would recover successfully, and the Celtics’ president of basketball operations acquired the sharpshooter and the draft rights to Glen Davis for the fifth overall pick (Jeff Green), Wally Szczerbiak, and Delonte West. There were doubts outside the organization as to whether Allen would be the same player following the surgeries.

One NBA title and 3,032 points later, Allen is on the verge of an exclusive club. Of the 36 players who have reached 20,000 points in the NBA/ABA, 26 are in the Hall of Fame, and seven of the other 10 are not yet eligible for induction.

Allen, who is in his 14th NBA season, attended September’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Springfield, soaking in the atmosphere and thinking of the possibility of his inclusion someday.

“It’s one of those moments where you just always feel vindication for everything you’ve ever done,’’ he said. “All the people that said no you can’t or put something negative in your life and you turned around and made it positive. It’s always something that’s been reiterated to me that I have always been on the right path.

“And I always thought with the right mind at heart, I have been a good guy my whole life. I have been who I am and people always said nice guys finish last, so I always feel like I am an example of that, somebody who has worked hard. I had to fight for what I got. This is something you take into the next phase of your life.’’

Allen’s longevity can be attributed, in part, to discipline. He always viewed his career as something to be nurtured. His alcohol-free regimen, along with his eating habits, have extended his career. Not only has Allen played two-plus seasons on surgically repaired ankles, he feels he has enough left to play a few more years.

Allen told a story a few weeks ago about going against his nutritional philosophy. Allen said he was hungry before a game and sent a locker room attendant to get him some pasta from the concession stands. Allen devoured the food but paid for it during the game because his system didn’t digest it properly.

“I don’t know what happened,’’ he said. “But I became dizzy and woozy.’’

Since his early years in Milwaukee, Allen has served as a role model for younger players. In Seattle, he befriended Rashard Lewis, a gifted forward four years Allen’s junior. Allen’s regimen rubbed off on Lewis, who signed a six-year, $118 million contract with the Magic a few days after Allen was traded to the Celtics and credits Allen with his development.

“When we played together in Seattle, he always got to the gym early. Got his shots up and we’d sit back in the locker, and just [get] mentally ready for the game,’’ Lewis said. “I learned it’s what you do off the court, take care of your body and getting the proper rest to perform well. Just watching him do the little things helped me come a long way.’’

Allen had no trouble transforming himself from a high scorer to part of a trio of All-Stars who each have had to sacrifice personally for team success. With other teams - more than likely less-successful teams - Allen would have reached 20,000 much sooner.

And he has somewhat stumbled upon this milestone. When asked about it before Tuesday’s victory over the Bucks, Allen was unaware that he was so close. But the significance of the number was not lost on him.

“Twenty thousand to me is a wondrous accomplishment,’’ Allen said. “I think for the most part it’s about longevity and staying healthy, taking care of my body, being on some good teams. It does allow me to reflect on the guys that I played with, coaches that allowed me to make the game easier, understanding the game.’’

It will be years before Allen’s place in the history of the game is determined. Kevin Garnett reached 20,000 points in March 2008 and Paul Pierce should reach it this season. Allen could easily have continued his career with Seattle or another club and been denied an opportunity to win a championship. The forming of the Big Three II, however, has defined his career. He will never have to buy a drink in Boston after his playing days - if he does decide to drink - and his individual accomplishments are more appreciated because they added to the resurrection of the Celtics.

“The fortune I have is that I still continue to think I am getting better and working within what we’re doing here and we want to get better,’’ he said. “For me, I can’t focus on what I am doing individually. We have such a regimen here that individually, we really don’t worry about it as much. And they stuck when you are not paying attention and I think that’s the beautiful thing.’’

Gary Washburn can be reached at

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