Allen does what he sees fit during the lockout
Ray Allen actually appears leaner than his regular-season playing weight, as if he has been on one of the Jillian Michaels workout regimens since the Celtics were eliminated by the Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals nearly two months ago.
Allen will turn 36 July 20, another milestone for the game’s greatest 3-point shooter as he embarks on perhaps his final season with the Celtics. Allen has one more year on his Boston contract, worth $10 million, and then it’s possible he will depart for greener pastures and an opportunity for a reserve role for a team that needs one final piece.
The lockout can be damaging to players who don’t take care of themselves, as we learned in 1998 when players such as Shawn Kemp, Rod Strickland, and Mitch Richmond saw their careers suffer after such long layoffs. Allen said he will make sure that doesn’t happen to him or any of his veteran teammates.
Players have been told by the Players Association to prepare for a long work stoppage, and that has encouraged some, such as Deron Williams of New Jersey, Sonny Weems of Toronto, and free agent Darius Songaila, to sign contracts with European teams. Allen isn’t going anywhere, and he will use this time to ensure that he is in premium condition.
“It’s really hard to say, it could be next week the lockout could end or it could carry on,’’ Allen said last week. “I’ve been in this situation back in ’99. We just have to sit and keep ourselves healthy, take care of our bodies. It hurt a lot of players last time and it sent them into retirement and they weren’t ready when the season came back and got out of shape. The lesson for me is to keep myself together and the guys that I play with.’’
Before the lockout, which prohibits contact between coaches and players, Allen and teammates Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett dined with coach Doc Rivers and discussed plans to keep the team in shape and motivated for one final title run.
Pierce and Garnett participated in the negotiations with owners before the lockout, and the sides were so far apart that they met for barely three hours before the collective bargaining agreement expired June 30.
“I just have to have faith in our system and the guys that are negotiating on our behalf,’’ Allen said. “I look at 15 years and to be able to have made it this far. I remember when I came to the league I gauged my years and my career against what Michael Jordan did. At the time he was like eight, nine years [in the league] and I said I would be lucky to play 12 years. If I could do that, I’d be happy. So it’s almost like I am on borrowed time right now. I want to continue to borrow it.
“And if the season doesn’t happen, I just get ready for the next one.’’
While team officials are banned from talking about the lockout or negotiations, players have the freedom to express their disappointment, and Allen understands his place in sports and society. The fact that millionaires are fighting with their bosses over a $4 billion pie is not lost on one of the game’s gentlemen.
“I think of Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Dr. J, and I almost feel just . . . the money we make, not only as players but as owners, the money that’s in the loop is so outstanding, it’s almost embarrassing we can make this type of money and then we can haggle over what we haggle over,’’ Allen said. “It’s important that the game is at an all-time high and I believe that those players in the ’70s and ’80s, they built us to this point to where we can afford the salaries that we all afford, and we just have to remember that. We’ve got to take this game to the next level and know that this is bigger than us.’’
Jackson was not able to take the pre-draft workout tour because of tendinitis in his right knee, but he did not undergo surgery as reported. Jackson said he had the knee injected to stimulate blood flow in an area that had bothered him for years. He is two weeks away from being able to participate in full basketball activities.
Jackson has moved to southern California for workouts, and remains one of the biggest draft mysteries because he played under the radar at BC and the knee prevented him from showcasing his skills to several interested teams.
Jackson visited Oklahoma City the day after the draft and had dinner with future teammates Daequan Cook and Royal Ivey. He has exchanged text messages with Kevin Durant and James Harden. At 6 feet 3 inches, Jackson could serve as that combination guard the Thunder have been seeking.
Jackson has had to school himself on the offense and structure.
“I took it upon myself to talk to the training staff and the player development staff, I went in and I was very eager about getting the video playbook and also a hand copy,’’ Jackson said. “About every day, I study. Watching the film, get a few plays down in my head, and run them over and over again as much as I can. I have been just trying to see where spots are open and where guys need the ball. I’m just working on everything.’’
Jackson emerged as a top prospect when he led the Eagles by averaging 18.2 points per game on 50 percent shooting, 42 percent from the 3-point line. The injury clouded his status, but the Celtics were ready to nab him at No. 25 if the Thunder had passed.
“I always felt like I was going to find my way to this spot,’’ he said. “I always envisioned being an NBA guy knowing how hard I worked and just my God-given ability and some of my measurements and what I have been blessed with. I knew I would be able to figure out a way to score in whatever system I was placed in. It’s no surprise, really. I just worked harder than I ever did in the last year.’’
But this is no ordinary summer for incoming rookies. Jackson has no idea when his teammates and coaches will convene, when training camp will begin, or when he will play in his first game. The rookies of the previous lockout had to wait until February to begin their first season, a 50-game schedule squeezed into three months.
Jackson can’t even talk with Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
“This has been a good period for me to get healthy and just heading out by myself,’’ Jackson said. “I have always been driven to be the best, knowing there is somebody out there probably working harder. I really don’t need that many people pushing me.’’
Markieff’s stock began to increase during pre-draft workouts and he was taken 13th overall by the Suns, while Marcus was selected one pick later by the Rockets.
Markieff said he has always known he was the lesser-talented brother since their youth basketball days in Philadelphia, and has never tried to compete.
“I honestly think it’s made the game easier for me playing with a guy who knows my game and I know his game,’’ Markieff said. “We both play well off each other and have high basketball IQs. As a person, you could tell I’m more laid back than he is. As a player, we’re definitely two different types of player.
“I really couldn’t [be like Marcus]. He had a lot of skill. He had a higher skill set than me, as everybody knows. I wanted to be different. I didn’t want to try to play the same game as him. It was definitely easier for me to play my different game.’’
The Rockets invested a great deal in Yao, most notably passing up on Amar’e Stoudemire, and never advanced past the second round of the playoffs. The Rockets were eliminated four times in the first round during the Yao era, and he never became the dominant center that many observers projected.
After missing just two games in his first three seasons, the 7-foot-6-inch Yao missed 250 games in his final six seasons, including all but five games the past two years because of a broken bone in his left foot and a stress fracture in his left ankle that required surgery.
It seemed as if the Rockets were ready to move forward. Yao was a free agent and the uncertainty of the lockout likely didn’t encourage him to come back because the free agent period could be as short as one week, depending on when the new collective bargaining agreement is signed.
And Yao’s market worth would have been tenuous because of his injury history. New coach Kevin McHale told reporters when he took the job last month that Yao would be welcomed back, but the Rockets most certainly will be seeking a big man when the lockout ends. If this is indeed it for Yao, his career could be considered a success.
Some of those who observed Yao during his pre-draft workouts in Chicago thought he would be a bust, but he was a steady 20-10 player before the injuries. Was he worth the first overall pick? The answer is a resounding yes because that draft has turned into a disaster long term.
Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy, Drew Gooden, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Dajuan Wagner, Nene, and Chris Wilcox were the next seven picks after Yao. Stoudemire was chosen ninth.
Yao’s legacy will be that he opened the door for Asian players such as Yi Jianlian and former Harvard standout Jeremy Lin, who just finished his rookie season with the Warriors. But because Yao’s career lasted just nine years and the equivalent of six seasons, there will be increased scrutiny on players of such size and girth.
Yao never developed into a dominant center but he did become one of the league’s more identifiable players and fostered the league’s popularity in China, which has led to the global presence commissioner David Stern sought. It’s a shame fans never got to see a fully healthy Yao in his prime, but his career was purposeful.
Layups The Cavaliers are getting ready for their influx of younger players by purchasing the New Mexico Thunderbirds of the NBA Development League and moving them to Canton, Ohio. Cleveland will be the fifth team to run its own D-League franchise and will be in charge of all roster moves. Cleveland drafted Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson and has five players age 22 or under on its roster . . . Minnesota’s Michael Beasley was the first NBA player to get into trouble with the law during the lockout when he was stopped in Minneapolis and charged with possession of marijuana during a traffic stop last week. According to the police report, officers found 16.2 grams of marijuana in the car, which would automatically earn a five-game suspension under the old collective bargaining agreement. But with no CBA and no contact between the teams and players, it is uncertain when or if Beasley would face punishment from the league. Because of previous issues with drugs, Beasley is already in the league’s substance-abuse program. Beasley spoke last week at a golf tournament in New Orleans and said he is the unofficial leader of the Timberwolves and would call his teammates together for offseason workouts . . . The NBA has to take a page from its NFL brethren about lockout programming on its league-sponsored network. Because the NBA does not want to promote any of its current players during the lockout, it is flooding the airwaves with replays of previous drafts, which is hardly entertaining when you are subjected to the selections of Keith Lee or Duane Causwell. The NFL Network has fresh in-studio programming, a top 100 players list, and the entertaining “America’s Game’’ series . . . With no players able to sign with teams, the free agent market is extremely unpredictable, especially for those undrafted players or those looking just to get a camp invite. Former Brookline High School and UConn standout Jeff Adrien was released by the Warriors just before the lockout, putting him in a difficult position. Adrien can’t even work out for teams because facilities are shut down. Adrien, who would love to play for his hometown Celtics, will most certainly get some looks from teams overseas.
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.