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Cowboys to Celtics: Allen Stays the Same

12.03.08 at 11:45 pm ET

A lot has changed about Tony Allen since he entered the NBA in 2005. From overcoming a gruesome knee injury to winning a championship with the Boston Celtics, Allen is far from the basketball player he was at Oklahoma State University. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t the same person.

‘€œHe was the exact same way,’€ said former college teammate and current Indiana Pacer Stephen Graham. ‘€œI don’t think he’s changed a bit.’€

It has been over three years since Allen and Graham led the Cowboys to the NCAA Final Four. On Wednesday night they were pitted against each other when the Celtics defeated the Pacers. Graham laughed as he recalled Allen’s antics and was not surprised that he is one of the most animated characters on the Celtics.

‘€œMy first impression of him was that he was just a guy who didn’t want to be bothered by nobody. He was kind of quiet when he first came to school,’€ Graham recalled. ‘€œBut when everybody loosened up, he was the guy who wanted to be in the main scene all the time. He’s pretty much like that now.’€

Allen still keeps his teammates loose in the Celtics locker room. He can often be found cracking jokes or rapping loudly to one of his favorite artists.

‘€œFor some reason he thought he was Cam’ron,’€ Graham chuckled.

Allen’s role on the court is another story, though. He went from the spotlight to the bench and accepted his responsibilities as a role player. There is enough offense in the Celtics starting lineup that he doesn’t have to put the ball in the basket to be effective.

‘€œI think he knows his role pretty well,’€ Graham said. ‘€œI think his shooting has gone down a little bit more. I think he’s realizing he’s a better driver than shooter, he’s taking less jumpshots. But his defense has definitely gone up. He’s a better attacker now than he used to be.’€

Part of Allen’s emergence as one of the first Celtics off the bench is his rekindled confidence. He had plenty in college but lost some of it when a knee injury nearly ended his career in 2007.

‘€œI was shocked,’€ Graham said of Allen’s comeback. ‘€œI thought that injury was going to be a little more detrimental to his career. But I guess he had really good rehab because he came back and he’s playing better than ever. He’s got a lot more confidence and it’s showing up on the court. He’s a big key for the Celtics offense and defense, so we’re proud of him.’€

No matter how much has changed since they played together at Oklahoma State, Allen is exactly where Graham expected him to be.

‘€œI knew the first day we played against him in college,’€ Graham said. ‘€œI knew he was going to be big.’€

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