Celtics

Celtics' Allen contemplates future roles in NBA

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Celtics' Allen contemplates future roles in NBA

BOSTON -- Prior to the start of his third game off the Boston Celtics bench, Ray Allen discussed a series of possible scenarios affecting his future in the NBA.

Allen, 36, had started in nearly every game of his 16-year career before becoming part of the Celtics second unit last Thursday following his return from an ankle injury.

While it remains to be seen if second-year guard Avery Bradley will keep the starting job for the rest of the season, Allen has to prepare to adjust to a new role.

I dont think it can happen for me to ultimately be comfortable with these 11 or so games we have left because none of us are getting into routines as far as settling in and what are roles are, getting practice time, understanding rotations and chemistry, Allen said prior to the Celtics 103-79 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in which he scored 10 points in 28 minutes off the bench. You just adapt the best way you can.

It is not unusual for players in the point of Allens career to transition to the bench. Allen, though, is one of the best conditioned athletes in the league among any age group. When looking at the group of veterans on the Celtics, he seemed like the last to be moved to the reserves.

But Allen is realistic. He has conditioned his body to feel years younger than his actual age throughout his entire career. At the same time, he isnt going to force himself into a position in which he is not performing to his maximum abilities. This season he missed three games with a jammed left ankle and six with a sore right ankle.

I think my challenge is to be able to compete at a high level every year I come into a season, and that means competing for a starting job every opportunity I get, Allen said. Thats my focus and thats my goal. But if I felt as though I wasnt playing up to that level and those standards, then I think theres going to be a point where Id have to say its time for me to move on.

A lot has been talked about. Like, I keep myself in great shape but I dont want to do it to the point where Im running myself into the ground. I dont want to say, hey, 'I have no more left in me.' I want to be able to say, 'I have it left in me and I can walk away from it.'

The possibility of a new role goes beyond this season. Allen will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. When asked how many more years he thinks he can be a starter, Allen said that decision depends on the needs of the teams he signs with.

I think the team that I play on dictates that possibility, he said. I think thats really probably the bigger question.

The fact that Allen is discussing a new role on the bench is an example of the unpredictability of this NBA season. It is the first time in his career with the Celtics that he isnt playing alongside Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo in the starting unit -- I think I just emotionally try not to worry about it or look at it that way, he said -- another facet of the unexpected turn of events.

Honestly, you never know, Allen said when asked if he thought at the start of the season he would be discussing a move to the bench in April. You never look at it or rule anything out because there are so many possibilities. Like you go into a season, you never think about being traded. A lot of players that are in different situations, you end up with new area codes and with a new house you never thought youd live in. So that always throws you for a loop.

Around here, you have to be ready to adapt. One, you cant get comfortable, and two, youve got to be ready to adapt to whatever changes are thrown your way, whether its you get a new teammate, you get a new coach, you get anything around here. You have to be ready to adjust to it.

Facing so many uncertainties, being able to adjust is something Allen is certain about.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Heat in Miami. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Will Celtics be drained by emotional comeback win Monday in Dallas?

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Celtics-Heat preview: Will Celts be drained by emotional win in Dallas?

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Celtics-Heat preview: Will Celts be drained by emotional win in Dallas?

The Boston Celtics remain a team whose collective talents are far more valuable than their individual abilities.

But there are going to be nights when someone has to shoulder a larger burden of the team in order to win. More often than not, that “one” will likely be No. 11, Kyrie Irving. 

We saw in Dallas what can happen when Irving feels he has little choice but to put the team on his back and carry them to victory. 

The Celtics were desperate for a spark against the Mavericks and found it in Irving, who scored 47 points in leading the Celtics to a come-from-behind 110-102 overtime win. 

It remains to be seen if the Celtics will require a similar Herculean effort tonight when they take the Miami Heat with a chance to extend their winning streak to 17 straight. 

This team isn’t one to dwell on success in the past, even if the past was just 24 hours ago. But there’s no getting around how what happened on Monday night might impact what we see against the Heat. 

Boston expended a tremendous amount of energy in rallying from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter at Dallas, the kind of effort that may be difficult to replicate against a Miami team that you can count on to play hard from the opening tip to the final horn. 

Irving’s performance was one of the rare instances this season when Boston clearly could not have won without their top scorer having a big game. 

“When we needed it most, he made big shot after big shot,” said Al Horford. “He had such good rhythm, I was thinking, ‘just let him keep it going.’ He just kept being aggressive, taking really good shots. He recognized he needed to be extra aggressive, especially at the end and score the ball for us.”

Scoring could potentially be at a premium against Miami which allows 102.5 points per game which ranks ninth in the league in fewest points allowed. Also, the Heat will test Boston’s perimeter defenders. Miami comes into tonight’s game averaging 11.1 made 3-pointers per game which ranks ninth in the NBA. 

The Heat are led by Goran Dragic who is averaging team highs in scoring (18.3 points) and assists (4.7) this season. 

These two squared off earlier this season in Miami with the Celtics coming away with a 96-90 win as Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum led the way with 24 and 20 points, respectively. In that game, the Heat were without starting center Hassan Whiteside, who will be in the lineup tonight as the Heat try to bounce back after losing three of its last four games.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE