After five seasons with the Celtics, the 6-foot-4 shooting guard still hasn't quite developed into the player the Celtics envisioned when they selected him in the first round of the 2004 draft. His minutes have varied wildly — they've been between 15 and 25 per game throughout his career — and his performance has been even less consistent. With respect to his scoring, his ball-handling and his commitment to defense, you're never quite sure what you're going to get.
The C's are now running out of time to find out.
After finishing his fourth NBA season and hitting unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2008, Allen re-signed with the Celtics for a two-year, $5 million contract. It was a good time to be Tony Allen — he had enjoyed some quality time in 2006-07 as a member of the Celtics' starting five, and then a year later, he emerged as a quality backup for the newly acquired Ray Allen. Tony had one of his best seasons defensively in 2007-08.
No one's quite sure what happened next.
This past season, T.A. was all over the place. He gave the Celtics 7.8 points per game off the bench, but his defense was spotty, his ball-handling was erratic and, most importantly, he couldn't stay healthy.
The Celtics swingman has had to deal with a multitude of injuries over the past few years. In '07, he celebrated his 25th birthday with the news that he'd torn two ligaments in his knee — on Jan. 10, he landed awkwardly on his left leg while finishing a dunk after the whistle had already been blown. He didn't play again that season.
Then, in '08-09, he was limited to 46 games because of a sprained ankle and a torn thumb ligament. He underwent surgery on that right ankle this June, and his status at the moment is in doubt. The C's acquired Marquis Daniels this summer to take over the team's bench swingman duties.
The team said earlier in the preseason that his time would be limited this October until he was 100 percent. Apparently, he's still not there yet. Allen has taken the floor just once this preseason. Last Friday, he played eight minutes off the bench for the C's against the New York Knicks. He finished with one steal, one assist and two turnovers. He didn't score a point.
Even if Daniels is here to stay and Allen doesn't play a major role in the team's future plans, the C's should still hope that Allen is on the road to recovery.
For one thing, the Celtics of all teams should know that too much depth is never a bad thing, especially late in the season. If injuries should strike next spring — whether to Daniels or to Eddie House or, god forbid, to Paul Pierce or Ray Allen, the Celtics will be happy to have one more wing player that can step in when necessary.
But even if T.A. never sees significant playing time, the team should keep a close eye on his trade value.
With a contract expiring at the end of this season and just $2.5 million left to shell out, the Celtics have a potential dynamite trade chip in Tony Allen. Every team that's looking to cut payroll and find some salary cap space to work with next summer will be looking for expiring deals to pick up. But to a borderline playoff team, one that wants to pick up expiring deals while at the same time keeping some talent on the roster here and now, T.A. could be a tremendous asset.
But no one ever watches their stock rise from the bench. If Allen wants to prove himself, he's got to get healthy and play.
One way or another, Tony Allen could have an impact this season. But so far, we haven't seen much. We'll have to wait and see what the future holds.