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Allen talks a good game

Posted by Peter May, Globe Staff  July 2, 2007 06:37 PM

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If Ray Allen plays as well as he talks, the Celtics will be a very happy group next season. Right now, there’s no reason to believe he won’t, given his history on and off the court.

The Celtics’ signature acquisition from draft night met the media Monday and the moment should be chronicled and passed on to all who come after him.

Everything he said was perfect, except for when he said he had "two perfect pairs of feet." He quickly made the correction. Just like he shoots — stopping on a dime.

His agent asked when was the last time the Celtics had anyone quite like this. Who knows? Ricky Davis? (Actually, Raef LaFrentz is cut from the same cloth, but he’s not in the same zip code as Allen.)

The Celtics can talk about Allen’s scoring, and how now they feel they won’t have any lulls on offense (they said the same things when they got Wally Szczerbiak, too), but from the standpoint of professionalism and mentoring, they appear to have gotten one of the best. And because he plays — and plays well — his is a voice that will demand to be heard and his is a path that will demand to be followed. Others on the team might have similar thoughts (like, say, Brian Scalabrine) but today’s young players will follow the leader if the leader has any cachet. Allen does.

"It's invaluable," coach Doc Rivers said. "Our young guys didn’t have enough to learn from in the locker room. It was Paul [Pierce] and Wally and that was about it. Ray is a consummate pro, and the things he brings to the game will resonate in our locker room. That is something I don’t think the average fan gets. Players can teach other players about being a pro. Coaches can’t do that. So that'll be great to have a guy like him around for that."

And there should be an eager group of guys wanting to soak in all that Allen has to offer. Think Gerald Green couldn’t learn something just by watching Allen? Or Allen Ray? And do you think Pierce (who we’re told loves the trade) will welcome a guy like Allen, who’s a little older, a little wiser, and who also has been an multiyear All-Star to boot?

"I’ve been part of good teams and I’ve been part of bad teams," Allen said. "The question is, what lessons are we learning as we go along? I tell the young kids, you have eight or nine months of the year to play basketball and the rest of the year you can relax. So, you’ve got to be ready. It doesn’t last forever."

He said when he was with the Bucks, he had to learn to step back and allow Sam Cassell to be Sam Cassell, Glenn Robinson to be Glenn Robinson, and Tim Thomas to be Tim Thomas (come to think of it, that was a pretty darn good team). The same holds true here. When Pierce gets on one of his rolls, Allen said he’s going to enjoy it just like everyone else.

"You have to ride that, let it go," he said. "You allow him to be who he is, and it allows me to be who I am."

He is coming off a career-best 26.4 points per game season, one that was cut short by surgery to remove bone spurs from his ankles.

He missed 27 games and the Sonics finished with the fifth-worst record in the league. He had a career-best 54 points in an overtime victory over the Utah Jazz last Jan. 12.

Right now, he’s recovering from April ankle surgery and is taking it slow. He was late for today’s news conference because of his physical, and one could almost imagine the doctors holding up the X-ray of Allen’s ankle and looking quizzically, like they did at the famous X-ray of LaFrentz’s knee ("Where did that come from?").

But Allen says he’s fine, which should augur well for him as he begins his 13th NBA season. He’s at or near the top of everyone’s list for best shooting touch.

He’s a dead-eye from the free-throw line, and while he enjoys the reputation of being one of the best 3-point shooters in the league, he actually finished 95th in 3-point accuracy, behind several Celtics, including the guy he replaced, Szczerbiak. He turns 32 later this month.

"I don’t look at this game in regards to my age," he said. "A lot of the important stuff you do comes off the court. I take care of my body. I put good things into it.

"Eighty-two games is a lot of games. I tell the younger kids that one thing that shouldn’t change over the course of a season is you. You always try to get to bed at a reasonable hour. You always try to eat the right food. Just getting them to understand that is half the battle."

Rivers quickly interjected: "The whole battle."

Allen, incidentally, came very close to beginning his NBA career with the Celtics. Boston had the No. 6 pick in the 1996 draft and Allen went fifth to Minnesota (which promptly traded him to Milwaukee for Stephon Marbury).

Larry Bird, then a consultant for the Celtics, was a big Allen guy and was hoping he’d fall. Instead, the team got Antoine Walker. Allen said he became a Celtics fan in college at UConn.

He said he’s elated to be back on the East Coast so his friends and family won’t get insomnia watching him play.

In short, he’s a guy who wants to be here. More important, he also may be a guy who is needed here if the Celtics are going to make any kind of noise in 2007-08.

This story will appear in Tuesday's Boston Globe; Peter May can be reached at P_May@globe.com.

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