His play had been up and down all season, the C's were losing ground in the Eastern Conference and trade rumors surrounded the veteran guard for months on end. Tensions came to a head last Thursday, when the team had to decide whether to keep Allen for the stretch run, or cut ties and deal his expiring contract for some assets that could make a difference down the road.
The Celtics opted to stick with their man. And while Allen maintained throughout the weeks leading up to the deadline that he wasn't motivated or influenced by the rumors that followed him, it does look like he's found extra motivation over the course of the past week. It's almost as if he's made a conscious decision to prove to his teammates, his fans and perhaps most importantly to Danny Ainge that he's the right man for the job.
The past week has served to validate Ray Allen's presence in Boston.
Since the passing of the 3 p.m. trading deadline last Thursday, the Celtics have taken the court four times, three of them on the road against sure-fire Western Conference playoff contenders. Allen's numbers in those four games: a little over 39 minutes per game, 37-of-57 from the field, 10-of-23 from 3-point range, 10-of-12 from the line. 23.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.
Across the board, you're looking at a big step up from his 2009-10 numbers. This is more like vintage Ray Allen, the guy who arrived in Seattle seven years ago with something to prove.
Sure, it's a small sample, and you might not expect this performance to keep up throughout the final two months of the season. But Allen's performance is a big sign that he's ready step up and be a huge impact player down the stretch. And it's a big reason the C's are winning — four out of five since the All-Star break, to be exact. Ever since the trade deadline passed last week, Allen has taken his game to another level. Coincidence? I think not.
"He says it’s not [the reason], but he’s playing awfully well,” head coach Doc Rivers told the Patriot Ledger. “I don’t honestly know. His demeanor hasn’t changed with any of us, I can tell you that. He’s just playing well. Maybe he is or maybe he isn’t, but whatever it is, keep it going.”
Kevin Garnett has some other ideas.
"I think since all the talk has sort of died down, you tend to be a little more relaxed," he told the paper. "I think at this point, Ray is just letting a lot of things come to him. He’s been shooting lights out. With Paul out, he’s the first to take the initiative of being more of an offensive threat. A lot of sets are called for him, and he’s aggressive. Typical Ray. I’m just glad he’s playing in a nice rhythm. We’ve got to continue to have him shooting it like he is."
You can believe whatever you want, but the difference is plain to see. Allen is better all around, and it's not just his relaxed shooting motion. That's always been there.
He's been more aggressive offensively. A couple of times during the Knicks game on Tuesday night, he charged to the basket and created open layups for himself. You had to pinch yourself a little bit and ask, "Is that really Ray Allen? Am I seeing this?"
Maybe this is too much to say after just one week, but Ray Allen looks like a changed man. He's assertive, he's confident in his abilities and he's ready to lead the Celtics going forward.
A week ago, he was old news. Now, he's the newest sensation in Boston.