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Which Ray Allen Will Show Up?

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Programing note: I intend to do an article per player on the roster.  They won't necessarily come every day, but they'll help me fill up the days when there's no news.

Ray Allen is a model of consistency, ...except when he's not.  It boggles my mind how a guy can be so solid and steady and yet be so hit and miss.

His routine and work ethic are borderline legendary.  Day in, day out, he's refining his craft.  For 9 straight years he averaged over 20 points per game.  When he quietly took a half step back into a supporting-star role behind KG and Pierce he still chipped in 17.4 and 18.2 over the last two years.  He's the one guy that Doc can't seem to bring himself to take out of games - even when he's trying to limit minutes.

In the perfect storm of egos in that locker room, he's the steady lighthouse shining through the chaos, pointing the way home.  When he talks he sounds like a polished politician, with a pleasant blend of wit and intelligent comment.  There's nothing inconsistent or unreliable about the man.

So why is it that we never know what we're going to get from him, especially when the playoffs roll around?

Take a look at his game logs.  By my rough count he only scored in single digits in 7 out of the 79 regular season games in which he played.  But in just 14 playoff games, it happened 4 times.  That isn't to say he had a bad playoffs.  It is just that he was feast or famine.

Just take a look at the first two games of the playoffs.  Game one: He shoots 1 for 12 for just 4 points in 39 minutes.  Game two: he shoots 50% and scores 30 points.  Later he followed up a 10 point game with a 51 point barrage in a losing effort.  He was very hit or miss in the playoffs the year before as well.

So what gives?  Why can't he be consistent in the playoffs?  Here are a few theories, none of which I can prove.

  • The nature of shooting:  Kind of like baseball hitters, even the best 3 ball shooters are destined to fail more than half the time.  Sometimes the good and bad shots bunch up together, maintaining his typical average but making individual good and bad games stand out.
  • Age/Injuries: It is a long season for over 30 guys and he even admitted that he has struggled with injuries that he didn't tell us about.  When a shooter has issues with his legs, the shots just don't fall as often.
  • Playoff gameplanning: There's a big difference between getting comfortable looks against the Bobcats in the regular season vs. seeing specific rotations designed by coaches to knock you off your rhythm.
  • Teammates: Perhaps more than other players on the Celtics, Ray is reliant upon his teammates to get him the ball in the right spots.  Sometimes in the playoffs Paul might try to do too much himself or Rondo might be a little off his game and the ball just doesn't find Ray in the normal flow of the offense.  For a guy so dependent upon routine, that has to throw a wrench into his works.

Or maybe I'm reading too much into things and the peaks and valleys he's gone through have been anomalies.  Maybe we'll see a consistent Ray Allen knocking down 3s all through the playoffs next year.  That would certainly bode well for his future on this team.

As most of you should be aware, he's in the last year of his contract.  He's expressed interest in signing an extension, but you know there's little chance Ainge will give up the payroll flexibility he provides us with next summer.

Despite some early summer rumors, I think there's a very small chance that he would be dealt before the trade deadline, but the option is always there if a sweetheart type of deal presents itself.  And headed into the summer, they can either re-sign him for a lot less than what he's making now, or they can sign-and-trade him for good value in return, or they can cut ties with him and allocate that money elsewhere.  Nobody knows exactly what chaos will ensue next summer, but having flexibility to react to the market is critical for Ainge.

I don't know if this is going to be his last season as a Celtic or if he's going to retire in Boston several years down the line.  I don't know if he'll be hot and cold in the playoffs again or if he'll find his post-season groove and stay there.  But I do know that even when he misses his first 10 shots, there's nobody I'd rather have taking the last shot.