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Tony Allen’s learning curve

01.04.10 at 4:46 pm ET
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WALTHAM – It is one the great paradoxes of Tony Allen’s career that his biggest problem –besides staying healthy — is turnovers, while his greatest strength is his versatility, which allows him to play multiple positions including, yes, point guard.

When Allen returned from his latest ankle ailment, Doc Rivers tried to make things simple, telling him to cut down on his turnovers and focus on playing defense. That was it. Now with Rajon Rondo hobbled by a hamstring injury, Allen is taking over the reins at the point where he will handle the ball much more than he did before and where things get decidedly more complicated.

One of Rivers great strengths as a game coach is putting his players in a position to succeed, and to that end he had Ray Allen bring the ball up the floor against the Raptors on occasion. But with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett also out of the lineup, Rivers can’t afford to have his best scoring option get bogged down in running the team, so the job falls to Tony Allen. It is, as he said, a learning experience.

“The hardest thing is remembering the plays from a point guard position,” Tony Allen said. “I know all the plays from a wing position but it’s just hard remembering where to cut to some times.”

Allen helpfully provided an example out of a set the Celtics call “floppy,” which essentially involves the two wing players cutting simultaneously under the basket and coming off curl screens on the opposite side. It’s as basic as the pick and roll and every team runs it, especially if they have a great shooter like Ray Allen who is particularly adept at shooting the ball while he is on the move.

“I know J.R. [Giddens] is a spot-up shooter where Ray is a catch and shoot,” Tony Allen said. “If I call a floppy play, nine times out of 10 I’ll go to Ray’s side to get that catch and shoot jump shot, which puts pressure on the defense where they have to help on Ray and [Kendrick Perkins] can feed on that. That’s just one example of understanding the point guard position. It’s like homework. You just got to basically know your assignment. I’m just taking it a day a time waiting for Rondo to get back”

That last line brought a little laugh from the press, but Allen elaborated why it was that he missed Rondo on the floor: “On the break I like getting it to Rondo and then getting open so I can get that finish. On the break now, I’ve got to get that thing up. I’ve got to get that play going. It’s definitely a good experience for me. I’m just taking advantage of it.”

Tony Allen has been taking advantage of his latest opportunity. He’s scored in double figures in six of his last eight games and helped pick up some of the slack left by the absence of Paul Pierce and now Rondo. Turnovers, though, continue to be a big problem. He’s had 12 in the last three games, which is more than half of his season total to date.

The Celtics will live with that for now, and frankly they don’t have much choice. They seem to have given up on the idea of shoehorning Eddie House into that role and Lester Hudson is a converted scorer and a rookie who has not gained Rivers’ trust as yet. But mainly they’ll live with it because Allen has been doing so many other positive things on the court. More than half of his shots have come from inside the paint and he is finishing to the tune of a .708 Effective Field Goal Percentage, according to 82games.com.

He’ll never be a “true” point guard any more than Rondo will ever be a “pure” shooter, but in his own odd way, Tony Allen is playing his game.

“I’m just out there playing and letting my instincts take over,” Allen said. “I try not to focus on should I do this, should I not do this. I’m just out there playing. I let the coaches coach. If I’m doing something wrong I’m pretty sure they’ll tell me. If I’m doing something right, I’m pretty sure I can keep going out there. It’s all a learning experience.”

Read More: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Tony Allen,
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