Last call for Tony Allen
For those of you who aren’t hardcore, obsessive, invested Celtics fans like I am, let me tell you the story of Tony Allen, whose time in Boston may soon end.
Drafted late in the first round in 2004, Allen progressed nicely for a "project"-code for "athlete who doesn’t know how to play basketball yet." In his first two years he played 16 and 19 minutes per game, showing a strong ability to defend and drive to the basket on offense but little else. He shot about 74 percent from the line but had no jump shot and turned the ball over more than he assisted his teammates. The thing that gave Allen legs in the league was his freakish defensive athleticism. He was the annoying gnat who would get up under the opposition’s best wing and keep his hand in passing lanes.
When the Celtics fell to new lows in ’06-’07, Allen leapt-temporarily-to new heights. With Paul Pierce out due to injuries and a roster filled with question marks, Allen, along with Al Jefferson, provided a glimmer of hope. He had catapulted up the depth chart from a backup to starting shooting guard, and put up solid numbers through the first fifth of the season. Then he exploded. Looking like a man possessed by a defensive demon, the Chicago native started absolutely shutting down his man, all the while driving by him to the basket on the other end of the court to a tune of a somewhat understating 17.06 PER through 33 games. If he had kept up his torrid pace sans Pierce for the rest of the year, he may have ended up with a PER of around 20 all while playing perhaps the defense out of any shooting guard in the league. He was 24 and coming into his own.
Unfortunately, the explosion wasn’t limited to his play. In that fateful 33rd and final game of Allen’s season, he drove to the basket and attempted a dunk on an unguarded basket long after the whistle had blown when he was fouled with the ball outside the three-point line. When he came down, his knee had given out, and he would miss the rest of the year.
Since that moment, Allen has gone from a potential starter on a playoff team to little more than cap fodder. The talent may still remain, but it has proved latent, rather than persistent. He slumped to PERs of just 10.81 and 12.96 during the past two seasons, playing no part in the Celtics resurgence, and has yet to suit up this year due to a balky ankle-and the fact that the team hasn’t needed him. That’s about to change, as Marquis Daniels, the team’s only backup wing in the rotation, will take some time off to heal a wrist and thumb injury.
Allen’s 27 now, he has an expiring contract, and this will be his last chances to earn another deal with Boston-or maybe any team, for that matter. If he doesn’t show what he’s got before Daniels returns, he’ll be gone at the end of the year-if not sooner. Here’s hoping the Tony Allen I grew to love in that dismal winter of 2006 is ready to shine.