AP Photo/Nikki BoertmanMemphis' Tony Allen plays defense against former teammate Ray Allen.
Tony Allen isn't registering the sort of on-the-court impact he probably expected in Memphis, but his off-the-court imprint is impossible to miss.
Hip-hop blared inside the Grizzlies' locker room before Saturday's game and, according to Grizzlies observers, that's something new this season. Maybe it's not surprising to find out that it's music-loving Allen whose iPod was jammed in the speaker dock at the front of the room before tip-off against the Celtics, setting the mood for Memphis' young and exuberant squad.
Two months shy of his 29th birthday, Allen is one of the elder statesmen on this Grizzlies squad. Only Zach Randolph (29) is older and has more experience (nine years). Even as he's struggled to maintain playing time, Allen is trying to bring some of the leadership he absorbed in Boston to a fledgling Memphis team.
"It's pretty different, going from a more veteran ball club to a young ball club, obviously, but I'm enjoying it," said Allen. "I'm pretty much trying to carry [the leadership from Boston] over, trying to get guys to be more focused in games, more serious in practices -- not saying they've haven't -- but just making it more of a point of emphasis."
Playing for the first time against the team he spent his first six NBA seasons with, Allen chipped in 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting with four rebounds, three assists and three steals over nearly 21 minutes of floor time as his Grizzlies forced Boston to stay late for the win.
"We definitely had an opportunity to see where we are at with a top team in the league, a team that has been around the block," said Allen. "This is a team that has their mind focused on championships and pretty much knows they are going to the playoffs. A team that knows a lot about winning basketball. It definitely was a chance to see where we are at. We competed, but the little things that we didn't do, the miscommunication on offense and mishaps on the defensive end."
In his new leadership position, it will be up to Allen to help show his new teammates how to get to that next level. It's part of what was expected of him after inking a three-year, $9.45 million deal this offseason.
Huddling with Boston reporters Saturday following Memphis' morning shootaround, Allen detailed how a hard recruitment by general manager Chris Wallace, Boston's former front-office chief who drafted Allen with the 25th overall pick in the 2004 draft, left him jumping at the choice to join the Grizzlies early in the free-agency period. His sudden departure came as a surprise in Boston and left the Celtics scrambling to add depth at the swingman spot.
"I felt wanted," said Allen. "I felt like this is where I needed to be."
Allen only shrugs and dismisses the what-if scenario when asked if a harder recruitment early in the free-agency period by Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge could have lured him back to Boston. The Celtics put a heavy focus on re-signing Paul Pierce and Ray Allen in early July, then brought in Jermaine O'Neal with the mid-level exception before turning their attention to next batch of free agents.
By that point, Allen was gone. Now he's trying to prove he's worth the investment.
Last week, Allen logged back-to-back DNPs (coach's decision) during Memphis' only wins on a four-game road trip. He entered Saturday's game averaging 5.1 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 1.4 assists over seven appearances off the bench. While Allen said he's still learning the playbook and defining his role on his new team, Memphis coach Lionel Hollins suggested Allen might see more DNPs on occasion.
“He’ll have a couple of DNPs,” Hollins said. “I think he had a couple of DNPs in Boston. Tony Allen’s a utility player who comes in and gives you some energy and gives you some defense at different times. Then there’s times when you need something else."
The Grizzlies need Allen to give them something else and he showed potential to do that against his former team.
--WHAT'S UP DOC? RIVERS UNCERTAIN ABOUT J.O'NEAL DIAGNOSIS--
Rivers said he had no update on reserve center Jermaine O'Neal, who returned home to Boston with a sore left knee, missing his second straight game as doctors try to figure out why he continues to experience flare-ups and swelling after an initial outburst following a loss last month in Cleveland.
"I’ll find out more [Sunday], I haven’t even checked, to be honest," said Rivers. "We gotta get through this game, then we’ll figure out what’s going on."
Even as the Celtics prepare to get Delonte West back as his 10-game suspension expired after Saturday's game, Rivers is resigned to the fact that his team might never e in full this season, due in large part to the injuries in the frontcourt.
"We're not going to have [a full and healthy team]," said Rivers. "Really. I went into the season thinking that, and, so far, I’ve been proven right more than I wanted to be. I just don’t see that happening with so many guys with age and we’re just going to have that [especially up front]. Our starting center has not even played yet in [Kendrick Perkins], then you've got the other two [O'Neals] who have been injured. I'm just hoping Jermaine can get back and get right. We’ll find that out. I don’t know anything yet, so we’ll find that out later."
--LOOSE BALLS: PIERCE MISSING PACQUIAO; KG FINE AFTER TAKEDOWN--
* Celtics captain Paul Pierce was kicking himself after the game. Not just for a defensive lapse that allowed Rudy Gay to tie the game (and force overtime) with 7.3 seconds to play or for failing to get off a potential winning shot at the end of regulation out of an isolation set.
"It felt like we've been on the road for a while and you get mental fatigue, especially on a Saturday night when you should be at home watching the [Manny] Pacquiao fight," said Pierce. "That's what I'm more disappointed at, this thing going to overtime. I got the fight on DVR. I'll take the blame for that: My bad defense at the end on Rudy Gay. My teammates picked me up."
Pierce, a Pacquiao supporter, can take solace in the fact that his fighter dominated Antonio Margarito over 12 rounds, earning a lopsided decision in Dallas.
* Ray Allen connected on one of his first six shots, but rebounded to hit four of his final five shots, including a trio of 3-pointers, while scoring 13 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
" A few shots I missed, I thought I should have made," said Allen. "By the fourth quarter, it doesn't matter what happened in the first three quarters. You have to make shots to win the game, you gotta be ready and prepared."
* Kevin Garnett said he's no worse for the wear after a hard takedown at the hands of Zach Randolph in the overtime session that saw Garnett hit the floor hard, his head appearing to hit the hardwood.
"I’m good man," said Garnett, who stayed in the game and played nearly the entire overtime session. "It's part of it. It’s part of the game."
Rivers put a lighter spin on it.
"It happens, I didn’t think he hurt himself," said Rivers. "I thought maybe he hurt his head. I was hoping Zach knocked some sense into him."