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Ainge: Tony Allen was waiting in the wings

05.21.09 at 1:07 am ET
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This week Celtics head coach Doc Rivers revealed Ray Allen played in the Eastern Conference Semifinals with a hamstring injury. But the Celtics had a back up plan if another one of their stars was sidelined.

“Now if anything had happened to Ray, if Ray wasn’t able to go because of the hamstring injury, then Tony would have started and played,” Celtics president Danny Ainge told WEEI’s The Big Show.

Tony Allen has been waiting in the wings for an extended role his entire career. Like it has happened so many times before, his opportunity for playing time this season was cut short by injuries. Rather than replace the void left by James Posey, Allen suffered an ankle sprain, the flu, and torn ligaments in his thumb. He appeared in just 46 regular season games.

“Every time Tony had an opportunity to play significant minutes, he performed very well in that role over the last couple of years,” Ainge said of the five-year veteran. “In a more limited role, and I think Tony had expectations of playing a 20 to 25 minute a game role going into the season, and you know with the injuries, that just didn’t pan out that way.”

By the time Allen returned in April, the Celtics had added Stephon Marbury to their backcourt. Eddie House was gearing up for a month in which he’d shoot fifty-three percent from three-point range. Not to mention, starters Ray Allen and Paul Pierce were still on the court the majority of the time.

“Tony, he was hurt for the last two months going into the playoffs,” Ainge said, “And so I think he lost his rhythm and we had gone in another direction and Steph had come on board and Doc actually liked Eddie playing the two guard and Steph playing the point guard. So with Ray getting as many minutes as he gets and Paul, I mean there just aren’t that many minutes to go around.”

The Celtics short rotations did not allow the second unit the luxury of easing their way into the games. Doc Rivers was looking for an instant burst of energy, which he often found in House. He could not afford to wait for his reserves to find their rhythm.

As a result, Allen played just 60 minutes in 14 playoff games.

“Tony has not played well in the shorter role. He has not played well in that seven or eight minutes a game role,” Ainge said. “He has never really thrived in that role from the time he came into the league. And every time he’s got a chance to play the 30 minutes or the 40 minutes, he’s shown what he’s capable of doing.

“So that was a little bit of a dilemma for Doc. I don’t think Doc had great confidence in Tony in those three, four minute rests that we might have needed and he went with Eddie and Steph. And Eddie and Steph produced at times and won games for us throughout the playoffs as well. So the one thing, there just aren’t a lot of minutes there. You can’t go with everybody.”

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