|12.03.08 at 9:31 pm ET|
Ray Allen is the best dresser on the Celtics. That is a fact can not be disputed. He is meticulous in his appearance, something he says he learned from Michael Jordan. If you are a star, you must present yourself accordingly.
It’s not easy to be GQ-ed out all the time (just ask any sportswriter). It takes more than a bit of care and attention to detail, as well as an innate sense of sartorial style. That’s important in the context of Allen as a basketball player in that he is just as particular about his shot.
As effortless and natural as it appears, Allen’s shot is actually the product of hours of practice. Honed under the withering eye of UConn coach Jim Calhoun, who used to start every practice with a pressure-packed free-throw shooting contest, and in his early days in the NBA in shooting drills with the largely forgotten Jeff Nordgaard where the two then-rookies would talk shooting concepts. (Nordgaard isn’t forgotten in Poland by the way, where he’s still lighting it up in the Polish League and has played for the national team there).
Allen’s shot abandoned him just once last year. That it came in the playoffs against Cleveland caused the basketball-watching public to wonder aloud if his magnificent career was in its final days. It’s not, of course, but it’s in keeping with his tenure with the Celtics that as brilliant as he has been, Allen has also largely been overlooked.
He was the leading scorer last night in their win over the Pacers with a season-high 31 points. He was the one who got them off to a quick start by knocking down three 3-pointers en route to 13 points in the first quarter. But on a night when Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins recorded double-doubles and Rajon Rondo earned the first triple-double of his career, Allen’s night went largely overlooked.
In the post-game press conferences there was not a single question asked about Allen. That’s fine with the player Doc Rivers has consistently said has had to make the biggest adjustment of the three established stars.
When he was asked about his hot shooting, Allen deflected the attention back on Rondo, who was a monster with 16 points, 13 rebounds and 17 assists. “It seems that Rondo and I go hand-in-hand,” Allen said. “When he’s as aggressive as he is, I get so many easy looks.”
That’s part of the Celtics Way, deflecting attention, but Allen’s performance over the last 11 games deserves closer scrutiny.
Beginning with the loss to Denver, Allen has been shooting over 55 percent from the floor and he has made almost half of his 64 3-point attempts. His Effective Field Goal percentage (which accounts for 3-point shooting) is an out-of-this-world 65 percent. By any advanced metric you can name–offensive rating, adjusted +/-, Roland Rating– Allen is the most efficient player on the team.
Rondo’s play has certainly played a part, as it has for all the Celtics.
“I’m not guessing what he’s doing,” Allen said. “I know where he’s going with the ball on most of the plays, and I know where I need to be.”
Knowing where he needs to be, or to put it another way: eliminating the unknown is the key because then it comes down to the routine and consistency is everything to Allen. It’s the reason for his pre-game shooting ritual and his free-throw routine, which never changes. Allen told the Globe’s Jackie MacMullan last year that he has a case of borderline obsessive compulsive disorder, which is actually quite common in athletes and artists. It’s also why the process can be just as important as the result.
When it all flows together, when the routine and the preparation go hand-in hand with the action on the court, the result is almost a foregone conclusion. Like a perfect tie with the right jacket. It’s just smooth.
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