Wizards

Allen ready for his return to Boston - with Heat

201301252125771403692-p2.jpeg

Allen ready for his return to Boston - with Heat

MIAMI (AP) Ray Allen has played in Boston as an opponent 15 times before. He knows what it's like to play under the fabled Celtics banners, knows exactly how the crowd treats visiting players.

His 16th appearance there as a visitor will be substantially different.

Not only will his trip there Sunday be his first as a former Celtic, but it will come with him donning the colors of perhaps the team's biggest rival these days, the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat, the club that has ousted Boston from the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.

And make no mistake, Allen has been getting ready for everything that will accompany this trip for quite a while.

``I've thought about it,'' Allen said. ``I think more about who, family-wise, is going, who can go and sorting the whole protocol out. I don't know what to expect from their side. But it's an interesting concept because I've always gotten a warm welcome, even before I started playing there. I just want to win. Everything else will take care of itself.''

When he played there as an opponent in the past, Allen typically got warm receptions. He starred at Connecticut and has deep roots in New England, and those two things go a long way in generating respect from the Boston fan base.

Then he joined the Celtics in the summer of 2007. A year later, he helped them win a championship. He bled green.

Now, not so much.

So on a Sunday afternoon before a national television audience, the big story won't be the return of the Heat to the site of their season-saving Game 6 win in the Eastern Conference finals last year, or the first trip back to Boston for LeBron James since his epic 45-point virtuoso performance in that game, or even the memory of how Celtics fans cheered wildly for the last few minutes of that blowout loss as a ``thank you'' to their team.

``It's going to be all about Ray,'' Heat forward Chris Bosh said. ``Celtic fans, they're very fixated on the rivalry and `How could you do that?' They're very passionate.''

Allen's relationship with the Celtics broke down in some respects last season, and when the Heat made him an offer last summer, he eventually accepted - knowing it would raise the ire of those back in Boston.

When the Celtics visited the Heat on opening night this season, the proof of the frosty relationships was there. Former teammates, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce especially, seemed to want nothing to do with Allen. As Allen checked into the game, his first official appearance as a Miami player, he approached Celtics coach Doc Rivers and got a warm embrace.

It's anyone's guess what the scene will be when he checks in Sunday.

``I'll savor it, going back and seeing the people you spent so much time with,'' Allen said. ``But if you're going into a situation thinking about negative perceptions or behavior that's unbecoming of good sportsmanship, then you just want to get it over with, win the game and get out of there. I don't want it to distract these guys from everybody doing their job and being ready to play.''

The bigger concern for both sides will likely be the way each club is playing of late.

Miami has won four straight games, hanging on to the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston has dropped six straight, and its hold on the No. 8 - and final - playoff spot in the East race is weakening.

Dwyane Wade doesn't think the teams' opposite trajectories will matter much. The way he sees it, when Boston plays Miami, everything gets amped up several notches.

``There's a lot of stories, but you can throw records out the window when we play Boston,'' Wade said. ``It's significant because we have Ray Allen and it's his first time back, but we're going on the road and we want to play well and it's a tough place to play.''

The Heat have been through these former-star-returns-to-old-home games before - most notably when James went back to Cleveland for the first time after he decided to sign with Miami.

After that scene, the Heat say they're prepared for anything Boston can offer.

``They're not going to cheer him, but it's not going to be like that,'' Wade said. ``Not even close.''

Quick Links

The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

Whoever put together the NBA All-Star Game player introductions has some 'splainin to do. 

The NBA introduced a kinda-full Staples Center to their 2018 All-Stars about an hour ago, and boy was it weird. There were a lot of dancers in different themed costumes. Kevin Hart was screaming. Rob Riggle was screaming. Ludacris showed up? Hey! Did you know that the Barenaked Ladies are still a band? The NBA would like you to know they're still around.  The whole thing was like when you're at an art museum and you're told that abstract piece in the corner is actually really meaningful but you gotta be honest, you don't get it. 

Anyways, the internet hated it. Here are some highlights from the internet hating it:

The lesson here is that you never need Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle. One will do. 

Quick Links

Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Drafting a running back early not a cure-all for Redskins' ground game

guice-michel-jones.png
USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Drafting a running back early not a cure-all for Redskins' ground game

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 18, 24 days before NFL free agency starts.

Tandler’s Take

The topic for today’s post comes from Twitter:

When I asked for topics for this post, the subject of the running game came up with several of them. And since John brought up the draft, let’s look at that as a potential solution.

Let’s first establish that the Redskins’ running game was not good enough last year. I don’t need to spend a bunch of time on this but here are some numbers. They were 28th in rushing yards and 29th in yards per carry. If you like to weigh more complete metrics, they were 28th in rushing DVOA. If you want to look at a key situation, they were last in the league in yards per first-down rushing attempt. Last year a team gained 100 yards rushing or more 274 times. The Redskins got there five times.

I’m going to leave it at that here since, again, if you’re reading this you probably watched a lot of their games and you don’t need to be persuaded that the running game was largely unproductive. Yes, there were injuries that had the offensive linemen playing snaps just days after being signed and the broken leg suffered by Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley’s various ailments. But the Redskins haven’t ranked higher than 19th in rushing yards since Jay Gruden became the head coach. Rushing game struggles are an ongoing issue.

I am going to work on the premise that those who advocate having the Redskins improve their running game via the draft are talking about drafting a running back in the first or second round. That may be overgeneralizing but that gives me a good-sized chunk of data to work with and still be able to analyze it in the 1000 words or so I am allotted here.

I’m also going to call a 1,000-yard season the minimum that would be expected out of a back drafted in the first two rounds. There are other ways a back can contribute, of course, and we can deal with them separately.

From 2010-2017, there were 45 thousand-yard rushing seasons by players who entered the league during those years (all data via the indispensable Pro Football Reference unless noted). Twelve of them were accomplished by players drafted in the first round. Six came from second-round picks, six from third-rounders, four from the fourth, three from the fifth, four from the sixth and none from the seventh. Oh, and there were 10 thousand-yard seasons that came from undrafted players.

It should be noted that four of those seasons from undrafted players came from the Texans’ Arian Foster. And two each came from LeGarrette Blount and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. So those 10 thousand-yard seasons should not be seen as an indication that there is a treasure trove of running back talent going undrafted every year.

Back to the first and second rounders, the combined 16 thousand-yard seasons doesn’t mean much in isolation. How many backs were drafted in the first two rounds in that time? How many opportunities have they had to post big seasons?

In the past eight drafts, 34 running backs were drafted in the first and second round. That group has had 170 opportunities to post a 1,000-yard season. What I mean by opportunities is the number of seasons that have elapsed since the player was drafted. The six backs drafted in the first two rounds in 2010 have each had eight chances to gain 1,000 yards in a season so they have combined for 48 opportunities (6*8). There were five backs drafted in the first and second seven seasons ago, so there have combined for 35 opportunities, and so on. Through the eight years that adds up to 170 seasons.

The combined 16 thousand-yard seasons in 170 opportunities comes to a success rate of 9.4 percent when it comes to reaching the bar that most fans would set as the minimum.

A couple of things need to be pointed out here. There are some backs like Giovani Bernard, Shane Vereen, and Christian McCaffrey who do not have any big rushing seasons on their resumes but have been valuable catching passes out of the backfield. And some like Dalvin Cook, who was injured after a promising start last year, and McCaffrey seemed destined to have 1,000-yard seasons in their futures. So all of the backs who have not gained 1,000 yards in a season are not necessarily draft busts or failures.

But here are first-round running back busts, just like there are busts at every position. There were 12 running back picked in the first round of the past eight drafts. Javid Best, David Wilson, and Trent Richardson clearly were disappointments (the former two struggled with injuries). Doug Martin, Ryan Mathews, and C.J. Spiller have had some success but perhaps not enough to justify being first-round picks. It took Mark Ingram a while, but he got rolling in his sixth NFL season. I want to see more out of McCaffrey before judging him and Melvin Gordon needs to continue his upward trajectory. It’s safe to say that even with small sample sizes of data in the books on Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette they were home runs. So was Todd Gurley.

So out of 12 first-round backs in the last eight years, you have three clear busts, three moderate disappointments, four top-level performers (including Ingram) and two TBD.

In any case, it’s clear that just drafting a back early is not a panacea for a struggling running game. Blocking (from both the line and the receivers and other backs), play calling, scheme, and some intangible factors like attitude (as Brian Mitchell will tell you) all play into the success and failure of moving the ball on the ground.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.