Ray Allen has generally adjusted to life on the bench with as chipper an attitude as could be expected when a future Hall of Famers gets demoted in favor of a raw 21-year old. (I should note here that it’s not really much of a demotion since Allen will likely play most crunch time minutes, regardless.) He has handled the situation like he has handled the rest of his career, with class, preparation and a willingness to sacrifice for his team’s benefit, pointing out how the starting unit has thrived with Avery Bradley and how coming off the bench could actually result in Allen making a greater impact.
So when Allen made some comments about how he does not have time to adjust to his new role prior to the end of the season, it set off an alarm. That alarm was assuredly slightly muted by Allen’s general good will regarding the change, and also the notion that during that last two games, at least, the change seems to be working. But Allen went on to describe how he has begun to think about his basketball mortality, a sign that perhaps this whole “coming off the bench” thing is getting to him, at least a little. (CSNNE)
“I don’t 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.” …
“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. “That’s my focus and that’s my goal. But if I felt as though I wasn’t playing up to that level and those standards, then I think there’s going to be a point where I’d have to say it’s time for me to move on.
“A lot has been talked about. Like, I keep myself in great shape but I don’t want to do it to the point where I’m running myself into the ground. I don’t 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.’”
Moving forward, there’s a legitimate chance Allen leaves the Celtics after this season. The Celtics are set to finally proceed with the rebuilding process Danny Ainge has promised for years, and it’s unclear how Allen or Kevin Garnett fit into those plans. Garnett seems to be leaning toward returning to the Celtics if given that opportunity, but Allen, whose skill set fits with almost any team in the league, and especially with the contenders, seems open to other suitors. He even acknowledged during the same CSNNE piece above that whether he’s a starter after this season depends on which team he signs to play for this summer.
But that looms in the future. For now, Allen is a newly-minted sixth man who’s learning how to play off the bench for the first time in his career. His comments about being uncomfortable with starting garnered a few national headlines, but really, his attitude regarding the change has been fine. Rather than using one comment and making it news, let’s gauge Allen’s entire reaction to the move. And with that in mind he’s been entirely professional, including this comment from the same story:
“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 you’d live in. So that always throws you for a loop.
“Around here, you have to be ready to adapt. One, you can’t get comfortable, and two, you’ve got to be ready to adapt to whatever changes are thrown your way, whether it’s you get a new teammate, you get a new coach, you get anything around here. You have to be ready to adjust to it.”
Being uncomfortable is natural. Ray Allen woke up almost every single game day for the past 16 years knowing he would start, and now he comes off the bench. But Allen will do his best to make it work. And the early returns have been good.