At Mohegan, a Sort of Homecoming for Allen
UNCASVILLE, CT - Doc Rivers wants to make sure his big guns get plenty of rest during the preseason, but with the Celtics playing their annual exhibition game at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, Ray Allen could rest another day.
Ray Allen takes it to the rim for two of his 16 points at Mohegan Sun Saturday night.
Saturday night was a homecoming for a guy who starred at UConn and still makes his residence in the Constitution State. As if he wasn't a big enough star in Connecticut, the spotlight was even brighter Saturday night, as Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce had the night off. Save for a few charity games in Jim Calhoun's tournament, Allen hadn't really played a game in Connecticut since his undergrad days.
Allen started for the Celtics alongside Rajon Rondo and three reserves and got an enthusiastic welcome during starting lineups, then took the court to address the crowd, thanking them for being great fans when he was at UConn, and then welcoming them to a "new brand of Celtics basketball."
The Celtics are still learning about Allen's brand of basketball. Doc Rivers admitted before Saturday's game that while he obviously knew how good of shooter Allen is, "I didn't know he was that good." And Paul Pierce said in the locker room before the game that Allen gets labeled as a shooter, but he's also a guy who can just flat out score and attack the basket.
Most everybody else in the Mohegan Sun Arena already knew that. After three great years at UConn, Connecticut knows about Allen's brand of winning basketball, his somewhat pedestrian and un-Allen-like 5-for-13, 16-point evening and a 96-78 loss to the Sixers notwithstanding.
"I've been playing professional sports for 15 years now," Allen said. "When you play in this state this is the state's professional team, playing for the university. I have so many great memories. I know that a lot of who I am comes from here."
The admiration is mutual. Allen had about 30 people waiting for him in the stands in Section 14 a half-hour after the game ended, and Allen told reporters that he's always loved spending time in Connecticut since his college days in Storrs.
"It's probably one of my favorite places to be, and people always say, 'Why Connecticut? There's nothing to do in Connecticut.' And I say, 'Exactly," Allen said. "You go everywhere around the world and when you finish playing basketball, you need to go somewhere where you have a nice home and your family's around you and you can have peace of mind."
Allen said he keeps a home in Connecticut and is still in touch with several of his former Huskies teammates like Donny Marshall, Scott Burrell and Sixers guard Kevin Ollie. But times have changed; where the guys once got together for nightlife a few years back, they're now worried about getting home early to their families and waking up earlier for tee times in the summer.
Allen's still not used to being in New England come October but he's clearly enjoying some of the surroundings of home.
"I haven't seen the leaves change in so long. They change in Seattle but the foliage here is quite spectacular. I haven't been able to see it in such a long time," Allen said. "It's good to be able to stay here, work out up at school a little bit more, and then drive back and forth to Boston."