Ray Allen has always been a humble guy. He's never complained about money, he doesn't ask for more touches or more shots, and he wouldn't dream of putting his own ego above the team. In a league full of neurotic superstars, Ray is the rare modest one.
Perhaps too modest.
Speaking with reporters in Dorchester on Thursday afternoon, Allen, who turns 36 in July, gave a surprisingly candid quote in which he said he wouldn't mind coming off the bench next season. After four years and 312 games as the Celtics' starting shooting guard, the veteran says he'd be OK with a change.
Allen has played 1,102 games in his distinguished 15-year career. He's come off the bench in exactly three of them. But he sees the potential for a shift into the sixth-man role at the tail end of his career, allowing newcomer Jeff Green to sneak into the starting five in his first full season.
"To me, however I can help the team, it'll figure itself out," Allen said, according to ESPN.com. "It's weird that guys have always looked at it like coming off the bench is such a bad thing. … But when you're on a winning team, winning the game is the ultimate objective, so that's my primary concern. I want to win."
He's saying all the right things. He's been cast in Boston as the star without ego, and this all rings true. But is he right? If he wants to be a winner, is coming off the bench really the answer?
Doc Rivers has been saying for years that he's never lost a playoff series with his starting five healthy and intact. His old starting five has gone by the wayside with Kendrick Perkins gone, but the four-man nucleus remains intact. Ray, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo are the four guys leading this team. Everyone else is secondary.
Having those four on the floor together is crucial. Every play Doc calls, the four of them know it cold and can run it seamlessly. That's a huge advantage that most teams in today's NBA can't possibly have. Sure, the fifth guy is different now — it's looking like Jermaine O'Neal, unless something crazy happens this summer to shake things up — but the big four are in charge.
Why tamper with that?
Danny Ainge has said this summer that he doesn't want to put young, inexperienced players under Doc. That doesn't mean benching Green, but it does imply that continuity is important to these Celtics, more so now than ever. This could be their last chance to win a championship before a likely rebuilding effort in 2012 threatens their status as contenders. Now, of all times, is not a time to be shaking things up.
Jeff Green will grow into a bigger role on the Celtics — he's too promising a player not to — but there's no reason he can't grow into that role from off the bench. Every great team needs a great sixth man, and for now, that should be his role.
After 2012, though, we can talk.
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