Notebook: Injury Woes Frustrate Allen, Davis Battling Slump

By Peter Stringer
January 23, 2006

Tony Allen
Tony Allen is finding that playing through pain is a daily reality after offseason surgery.

Arguably the best athlete on the team, Tony Allen was expected to do big things for the Celtics this year. But a mysterious off-season knee injury and subsequent surgery has temporarily derailed Allen's progress, despite the fact that the second year swingman has been back in the lineup for nine games.

Allen doesn't know when he hurt the knee, but he knows that he played through pain during the Las Vegas Summer League. He had a small piece of cartilage removed from the knee on September 13, 2005, and spent the entire preseason rehabbing, hoping to be back for the start of the year. But the healing process was far slower than anyone anticipated and it's been a long road back.

"It's frustrating because one day it feels good, the next day it feels sore," said Allen. "I want to help the guys win, but some of the stuff I did last year isn't showing up this year because of the surgery."

For a guy whose game is largely predicated on his extraordinary athleticism, Allen is doing a good job of remaining productive despite the fact that his body still can't cash the check his mind is writing, if you will. Allen says the injury and subsequent recovery period has taken away his "bounce", and he's not playing above the rim like he usually does. In the meantime, Allen has been focusing on the little things he can do.

"I try to put as much effort as I can into doing the other things I can do, boxing out my man, get rebounds," said Allen.

Allen went 26 minutes at the end of Saturday night's blowout loss to New Jersey. In nine games thus far, his minutes have fluctuated on a nightly basis and he's still trying to get his timing back. But a few plays from Saturday's game, specifically a baseline block and an attempted poster-jam in the closing seconds of the night showed that Allen is slowly regaining his form.

If he's learning anything from his comeback, it's one of the harsh realities of professional basketball: to keep your spot, you have to play though pain.

"The injury is going to be there all year. I've got to fight through it, that's all I can do right now," said Allen. "Fight this year, let it rest and come back next year with the mentality, hopefully, that it's healed. Now, it's just focus on getting through it, game by game."

Ricky Davis, who starts at shooting guard and gets most of the extra minutes that might go to Allen when he can handle them, understands his frustration.

"I can remember when I came back from injuries, [for him] it's probably going to go on for the whole year, so it's not going to be easy," said Davis. "You've just got to keep your confidence going, that's main key."

Davis Battling Slump

Since Davis went scoreless in Detroit last Monday, he's been mired in a bit of a slump, Friday's home game against the Nets notwithstanding (22 points). Davis says he can't remember going scoreless at any other time in his career at any level, and it's not likely to happen again. After all, Davis makes his living because he can score the basketball, and do it regularly.

Ricky Davis
Ricky Davis says that when he isn't scoring, he tries to contribute on the defensive end.

Davis knows that when his shot is not falling, he can chip in on defense and do other things to stay on the floor. For instance, last Wednesday against the Timberwolves, just two night's removed from his "ofer" in Detroit, Davis could feel that it may not be his night again, so he concentrated on locking up Wally Szczerbiak.

Even so, Szczerbiak still dropped 22, and Davis' defense continues to be a work in progress, especially when his man doesn't have the ball. Davis says he sees improvement in his defensive game.

"It's something that coach and I have been talking about, that [my defense] has to get better for this team to get better," said Davis. "Not even really to stop guys, but just contain them."

There's a school of thought that because Davis plays so many minutes (he's averaging 41.8 MPG, second in the NBA) that he's generally too tired to be effective on the defensive end, especially at the end of ballgames. But Davis thinks that his minutes really don't affect him, or other most players for that matter.

"We're in tip-top shape. I think guys are capable of playing the whole game if they have to," said Davis, who added that he'd love to play every minute of the game if he could.

On the other hand, he said doesn't feel that he needs to play 40 minutes to be a scorer, or to find his shot again.

Jefferson Still on Learning Curve

Doc Rivers isn't concerned about the frequency with which Al Jefferson has been nailed for traveling as of late. He did say that there were games that he felt the officials were looking specifically for footwork violations, but wasn't sure whether opposing coaches were tipping off officials, or the league was handing down memos to watch for traveling in the paint.

"It would be nice sometimes when they get their memos if they actually told us," said Rivers, laughing.

One thing the Jefferson can prepare for is the ancient art of "chair-pulling", most recently executed by Rasheed Wallace against Jefferson. Chair pulling is a veteran trick that's been around about as long as the league, whereby a post defender leans on an offensive player who is posting up, waits for him to make his move and then backs away when he feels the push, causing the offensive player to loose his balance and usually his footing as well. The end result is generally a traveling violation or ending up too far underneath the rim to actually shoot the ball.

"You know, it's funny, we talked about it before the game that Rasheed is a chair puller. And Al said he was waiting for it, and he swore he didn't travel, but he traveled, he damn near took six steps. But he said, 'I was waiting for it, but he pulls and I loose my balance.' And I said, 'that's what he's trying to get you to do'. The tricks that the vets will play, there's no way around that. You can tell them and even when you tell them, you still cant prepare for them. That's just part of the learning curve."

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