If his first six games in a Celtics uniform are any indication, then it appears as though Michael Finley has supplanted Tony Allen in Doc Rivers' everyday rotation.
Since his debut against the Bucks, Finley has averaged 15.6 minutes, while Allen, over that same time period, has seen his minutes dip to just 5.3 per game. In the two games prior to Finley's debut, Allen played a total of two minutes due to a minor back problem, but, in a rather rare instance, health does not seem to be the the reason why Allen has been commissioned back to the bench. In the two games prior to his back ailment, Allen averaged a much more respectable 17.5 minutes per game, which was much more in tune with the 17.9 minutes per game average he boasted in February, as well as the 17.2 average he sported in January.
However, have the past six games merely been a crash course for Finley as the Celtics gear up for the playoffs? Regardless of the number of minutes he might see, it seems quite clear at this point that Finley will be a part of the Celtics' plans once the postseason gets under way. Perhaps these last six games haven't been a demotion for Allen, but a scheduled pause, as Finley adjusts on the fly to the way things are done around here. Because one of the only ways Finley could become a bother to the Celtics is if he's botching offensive assignments on set plays and committing costly turnovers as a result. Execution is pivotal in the playoffs, and if Finley isn't on the same page as his benchmates, the mistakes that could potentially result could be devastating. So, to avoid such a gruesome scenario, Doc Rivers has decided to play him as often as he can now, so that he can learn as many of the ins and outs of the Celtics' methods as possible.
The other interesting difference between Allen and Finley is the fact that each thrives at one respective end of the court, and not necessarily the other. Allen's typically at his best when he's playing his tenacious, up-in-your-grill defense on the opposing team's best wing player. And while he's a credible slasher on the other end, that aspect of his game hasn't come to define him.
Finley, on the other hand, especially at the ripe old age of 37, is a shooter, plain and simple. And a good one, at that. A career 37.4 percent three-point threat, Finley shot a lights-out 18-28 from the floor (6-11 from three-point nation) in his first six games with the Celtics. Granted, he came back down to earth in a big way last night, having made just one of nine shots against the Knicks. Regardless, Finley's here not only because of his veteran status, but because he's quite capable of putting the ball in the basket. He's not here, however, because he's expected to guard the likes of Dwyane Wade, Vince Carter, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant.
So, given their differences, will Doc play the 'situational' card, in the sense that when he needs offense he'll play Finley, and when he needs defense he'll toss in Allen? Crazier ideas have certainly been raised. Doc's alluded to this possibility before, and I'm sure he appreciates the fact that he now has 'options'.
Remember during the championship season when Eddie House's minutes were given to Sam Cassell? Well, it certainly wasn't the downfall of Eddie House in a Boston Celtics uniform, as he was one of the five guys on the floor that helped seal the Game 4 comeback against the Lakers in the NBA Finals mere weeks later.
Finley's arrival isn't necessarily synonymous with Tony Allen's demise, for the oft-injured two-guard really had played quite well before Finley arrived in Boston. He filled in admirably for Pierce as far back as December, and continued to be a solid role player for Doc upon both Pierce and Marquis Daniels' returns. He appears genuinely healthy these days, which should allow him to be the defensive stopper that the Celtics expect him to be come playoff time.
And in a game that's all about winning, if the Celtics' best chances at victory come with Tony Allen filling a 'situational' role, then so be it.