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Ray Allen's a sharp-dressed man, an actor, an avid reader, a philanthropist and a bit of a philosopher. He's also a stone-cold shooter from anywhere on the floor and the calm at the eye of the Milwaukee Bucks storm, putting up 22 and five every night and making it look easy.
1. If the playoffs started today, you guys would be playing the 76ers in the first round. You and Iverson go way back. Do you get especially keyed up to face him?
Ray Allen: There's always a thrill to see a guy's face when you sent 'em packing because you're gonna be the last person they thought about, the whole offseason.
Have you been thinking about him since last year's conference finals?
Allen: Not really because now I feel like my team is better, and we have an opportunity to do some better things this season.
Iverson said Philly's still the best team in the East. Do you buy that?
Allen: No, not at all. The best team in the East has the best record in the East.
Allen: As a human being, it's in your nature, when somebody says something about you negatively, to defend yourself and lash back. That's what we all have to learn not to do. You have to forgive a person. And when you forgive a person, you have to forgive yourself. He was lashing out because he was upset and discontent with his team and, you know, my natural reaction was to get pissed off and lash back out at him and be mad. But in the overall scheme of things, I try to remember that everybody is doing something that they love, and we all get frustrated, and, finally, when you win, it shouldn't matter.
A few weeks after Karl said all that, Anthony Mason started saying the Bucks weren't tough enough. How big a part does toughness play in succeeding in the NBA?
Allen: Well, you definitely have to hold your ground, you've got to be firm to play this game. It doesn't mean you have to beat people up. It's a war of wills out there on the court. You have to have a stronger will than your opponent, and every guy on your team has to feel that same way against the guy he's guarding.
3. People describe your game as smooth and graceful. Do those descriptions bother you?
Does style count in the NBA?
Allen: No, at the end of the day, it doesn't. I don't think Ben Wallace has style, for example. But we played them the other day and he had a triple-double. That's a hard day's work right there, 10 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds ... he had 17 rebounds, actually. And there wasn't any style about it. He just got it done. And I think we respect getting it done, as opposed to being stylish out on the floor.
4. You're in the new Air Jordan ad, the "All Rhythm, No Blues" thing. Was it good to work with Spike Lee again?
Allen: It worked out well. Once you work with Spike, he knows you, he knows what you can give him. There's a friendship there. We're on the same page, and, no matter how much time elapses from one meeting to the next, we can always catch up.
One of the things about the ad that was kind of disappointing is that it really focuses on you as a jump shooter. Why no breakdown moves, why no taking it to the hole?
Allen: I think that with the spots that they had ... you know they did spots with Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson ... and that was kind of the angle, because you know, they categorize those guys that way, and me as a shooter. Plus, at the time, I had a knee injury. I couldn't do much anyway. And if my opponents think I only shoot jump shots, that's fine by me.
Allen: If time allows. You think about putting together a good movie, having a good role, you need two solid months. And the way my schedule is, even in the offseason, it's almost impossible.
5. The new Nike ads feature a mix of jazz and hip-hop. Are you a fan of that music? What are you listening to these days?
Allen: I have a taste for a lot of different kinds of music ... everything, from hip-hop to jazz to R&B to top 40 to alternative. There's a lot of good music out there. Every now and then, I'll flip through VH1 and watch the videos ... the only thing I really don't listen to is country.
Do you ever play with a song in your head?
Allen: Yeah, it's not really any particular song. I just want something with a nice beat to it, a nice flow, maybe something that's inspirational.
Do you listen to music to get up before a game?
Allen: I listen to it on my drive in from home. On the road, I listen to the radio, when I get out of the shower and I'm ironing my clothes. You know, it's a crap shoot when you're in hotels, because depending on what city you're in, the music might not be that good on the radio.
Allen: My favorite book is probably "The Alchemist," by Paulo Coelho. Yesterday, I just finished Mitch Albom's "Tuesdays with Morrie." That was good.
Do you ever do the Phil Jackson thing and give books to your teammates?
Allen: Yes, I do. For the holidays, I give them to my teammates. I gave them all "The Alchemist" one year. If you haven't read it, you should definitely read it ... it will inspire you. The first time I read it, I bought 10 copies and gave them to all my family members and friends. I gave everybody, coaches included, Tony Robbins books once. Dr. Phil, the guy that's always on the Oprah show, I like his books, too.
I always want to inspire people to achieve more than what they think they can achieve. Books can help. I mean, we've all achieved greatness, because we're all here in the league. But there's always something more that can get everybody over the hump, because some people are still struggling. Some people have made it here because they were destined to be here, but there's something in life that's telling them that, you know, hey, there's still more I can do.
Getting ready for this interview, I found a Ray Allen superhero comic book online. What's the story?
Allen: Yeah, I have a friend back in Hartford, an artist ... he did the world's longest comic. Anyway, he asked if he could do one about me, so he put it together. It's pretty neat.
Allen: Definitely. There are a lot of black pioneers that allow me to do what I do today. I couldn't imagine living at the time when they lived, going through what Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King Jr. and some others lived through. Young people today are soft by comparison, they don't have the gumption to go through what young black people went through back in the '50s and '60s.
8. It doesn't happen very often, but what goes through your mind when you just can't get shots to fall? Do you just assume you'll break out of it?
Allen: You just have to dribble the ball, get to the hole and get fouled, that's all I'm thinking about. I figure I'll get my rhythm going shooting free throws. You can't start to put pressure on yourself, or start thinking about it, saying, I hope this one goes in.
Everything else being equal, would you rather dunk or hit a 3-pointer?
Allen: I'd rather hit a 3. And this has changed over the years. I used to think dunking was so demoralizing, and that was the case, you know, back in the day, when I was in high school. Not many people could dunk in high school, and I was one of the only guys on the floor who could dunk. So when I dunked, everybody wanted to see it, everybody got so hyped, and it demoralized the other team.
Then you get to college and more people could dunk. Then you get to the NBA and everybody can dunk. You have to really dunk over somebody, really make somebody look bad, make it to the point where they're humiliated to really have it mean something. But if you shoot the 3, not everybody can do that. It's a big momentum changer when you shoot a 3, especially from where I can shoot them. The opponent, they just don't know what to do because they think that they're on you, but they're not.
Now, the hottest commodity in this game is the big guy who can shoot. The more a big guy can shoot, there's a mismatch on the floor. As the game evolves, you're going to see more and more big guys who can shoot the 3. Guys like Arvydas Sabonis.
You think about the game now, I mean, yeah, you can dunk the ball, whatever. But there's always some new way to make somebody fall, and break their ankles. I'd rather do that.
9. Who is the best practice player you've ever played with?
Allen: I have to say Jack Haley. Jack didn't get any playing time, so practice was his game. That's the case with a lot of guys on NBA rosters, but Jack, he was the best player in practice all the time. He set screens, he talked trash. He was out there really playing hard. A couple of times, guys had to tell him to slow down, take it easy. This is when we were losing, and the guys didn't understand the effect he should have had on guys. People were intimidated by his work ethic.
10. Do you still think about the loss in the conference finals last year or are you past that?
Allen: I don't worry about it.
What makes the difference in a series like that? It was so close. Is there anything you guys take away from it. Is there anything you'll try to do differently next time?
Allen: No. We hope to get put in that same predicament, with another year of experience under our belts.