Thursday, February 3, 2011
Ray Allen gets paid his All-Star due
By Peter May ESPNBoston.com
This time around, for the first time in five years, Ray Allen won't have to wait by the phone. He knows he's going to the All-Star Game. Last year, well, he knew he wasn't going because of his rather un-Ray-like play. The three previous years he had made the midseason showcase as an injury replacement selection by NBA commissioner David Stern.
Not this year. The Eastern Conference coaches (with the exception of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who couldn't vote for any of his own) named Allen one of the seven Eastern Conference reserves Thursday night. He will join teammates Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo at the Feb. 20 game in Los Angeles. They, too, were selected as reserves.
Ray Allen has been overlooked in recent years for the All-Star Game, but this year is different.
Allen is making his 10th All-Star appearance while Garnett is making his 13th (he has been selected 14 times but did not play in the 2008 game.) Pierce is making his ninth appearance. Rondo is back for a second time.
Four Celtics. All legitimate. Allen is having a career season at the age of 35, shooting the ball from the field better than he ever has. Garnett nearly made it as a starter, as did Rondo. Pierce was a lock.
Having four reserves is not unprecedented; the Detroit Pistons had four in 2006. But this year, the choice of four Celtics as reserves speaks to the overall lack of star power in the Eastern Conference. Nine of the 15 teams from the East will have no representative in the game. Nine of the 12 All-Stars are from three teams.
Let's hope they stay healthy because you'd have a hard time picking a 13th player if need be. Ray Felton? Carlos Boozer? The Bulls, who have one of the top records in the conference, don't really have a slam-dunk No. 2 behind Derrick Rose. Both Boozer and Joakim Noah have been hurt.
There really isn't anyone who stands out as a Certified Snub in the East. Contrast that with the West, in which a key player such as the Lakers' Lamar Odom was not chosen (he could and should be a commissioner's pick). Kevin Love, despite his lofty numbers for the Timberwolves, fell victim to the Bad Team Syndrome and was not selected. LaMarcus Aldridge has a beef.
According to information from the Celtics' media guide, this is the fourth time the team has had four representatives in the All-Star game -- and first since 1975 (Paul Silas, Dave Cowens, JoJo White and John Havlicek.) Somehow, the greatest Celtics team of all time (1985-86) produced only three. Those powerhouse Celtics' teams of the mid-1980s never could get four. When Dennis Johnson made it in 1985, Kevin McHale did not. McHale was back on in 1986 (along with de rigueur choices Larry Bird and Robert Parish) and DJ stayed home. By the time Danny Ainge made his one and only All-Star appearance in 1988, Bird and McHale were with him but Parish was not.
In 1962, the Celtics had four players in the All-Star Game: Bob Cousy, Sam Jones, Bill Russell and Tommy Heinsohn. There also were four from the 1953 Celtics: Cousy, Ed McCauley, Bill Sharman and Don Barksdale. There were 10 teams then (and nine in 1962). Red Auerbach was in his third season as the coach of the Celtics in 1952-53.
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This year, most assumed that Pierce, Garnett and Rondo would easily make the reserves. Garnett and Rondo had enough votes through the third of the four voting stages to be named as starters before being overtaken (and, no argument, really) by Amare Stoudemire and Rose. Pierce was right behind Garnett in the final fan voting (No. 4), while Allen was right behind Rondo (also No. 4).
Allen should have been in that "obvious" category this season, but he has slid through the cracks the past few years, and who knew what the coaches would do? How many would write down four Celtics? In his first two years in Boston, Allen was a legitimate All-Star candidate but didn't get picked. He ended up at the game as an injury replacement for Caron Butler (2008) and, ahem, Jameer Nelson (2009). He also was an injury replacement in 2007 for Steve Nash.
Last year, he struggled and there was no outcry when his name (or phone number) wasn't called. There were trade rumors, the Celtics had a terrible January and Allen's first-half numbers were underwhelming. In the first four months of the season, he averaged 16.1 points on 44.5 percent shooting. In the last three months, knowing he wasn't going anywhere, he relaxed and averaged 17.7 points on 52.3 percent shooting. He also had an excellent postseason.
But who saw this in 2010-11? He's shooting 50.8 percent from the field; his previous best is 48 percent and his career average is 45 percent. He's shooting 45.8 percent from international waters. His previous best is 43.4 and his career average is 39.8. He's dipped on his free throws, connecting on "only" 85.7 percent. He's been better than 90 percent the previous five seasons.
And he has done it all at the age of 35 while not missing a game and averaging almost 36 minutes a game. No one on the Celtics has played more minutes this season, though Rondo is averaging more per game.
Allen has appeared in three All-Star Games with the Milwaukee Bucks, four with the Seattle Sonics and this will be his third as a Celtic. This time around, however, he's there because the Eastern Conference coaches, the guys who try to stop him night after night and have yet to figure out a way to do it, finally gave him his due.
Longtime Celtics reporter Peter May is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.