BOSTON - Tony Allen wasn't always the Grindfather.
There was a time when he was on a terrible team with a scoring vacuum. Allen was having a breakout year for the Celtics, who were at the bottom of the league after Paul Pierce went down for the season.
Allen came into a game against the Indiana Pacers with six-straight 20-point games and was looking like the prototypical young scorer on a tanking team.
It was January 10, 2007 when Tony Allen got fouled by Stephen Jackson driving down the right lane. He took an extra step and threw down a tomahawk off the back of the rim that shook the arena. But when he came down with his left foot turned out, the crowd watched in horror as he crawled down the baseline in pain.
It was a tear of the ACL, medial meniscus and lateral meniscus. His promising season was over and the high-flyer had a long rehab ahead of him if he wanted to regain the dynamic athleticism that was helping him garner national attention.
"I go out and I think about it, but hey it made me in to the man I am today," Allen said Wednesday. "Because around that time I thought I was the next superstar of somebody's franchise. But it made me into a glue guy. Do all the intangibles and do stuff like that."
The first change for him was a renewed focus on taking care of himself. He was so driven by the idea of being a star and the dominant scorer for a team that he put his body at risk. So the first step was to reprioritize his health.
"Just pretty much just trying to strengthen my ankles and my legs," Allen said when asked how the injury affected him. "To take better care of my body, eating right. A lot played a part into it, but for the most part, I think about my body all the time now.
"Can't nobody tell me about my body. It's me. I listen to me, myself, and that's it. When my body speaks to me, you can see it out on the court."
The next step was to rediscover his role on a team that didn't need, nor desire, that he be a focal point of the offense. So did the knee tear put the flashy dunks in the past and team play in the present?
"Most definitely. Most definitely. Most definitely. It was definitely a humbling experience man to injure myself because around that time I was playing at a high level," Allen said. "Unfortunately, that happened. But like I say, it made me into the man I am today. My preparation beforehand is a lot different now."
As Allen lay on the training table with his trainer giving his Achilles and calves a thorough deep tissue massage, he thought out loud about how the next three years, potentially his last in the NBA, will look.
"I missed a lot of games earlier in my career. Meniscus, thumb, posterior, ACL. I missed a lot of games. So you know, chop those games missed, put ‘em back on the back end. Three years going to be powerful."
The Grindfather may be a smarter and more controlled player now, but he still has the same mindset.
"I haven't changed. I keep the same mindset. I ain't looking at the name on the jersey. I'm coming here to compete and that's just basically the mindset."
No matter how long he is out on the court, there's no question he will keep on grinding.
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