Allen Embraces Challenge of Celtics’ Turnaround
WALTHAM - When Ray Allen shows up in Storrs, he's rarely recognized on campus at the University of Connecticut, and if people do remember him, they can't recall for what NBA team he was playing.
"People are like, 'Who do you play for again?' People are so saturated with their local sports heroes," Allen said. "In most major cities you have four major sports teams, and those are the guys you relate to."
Sure, it's been a while since Allen starred for Jim Calhoun's Huskies, and his memorable turn as Jesus Shuttlesworth in He Got Game aside, Allen's been toiling in relative obscurity in Milwaukee and Seattle. But after Thursday's draft night deal that brought him back to his New England roots, Allen will have to get used to being noticed again, and it was certainly apparent at his Monday afternoon press conference that the region hasn't forgotten him.
Nine local television cameras and scores of reporters awaited Allen as he made his first public appearance for the Boston Celtics, and he showed off his new #20 jersey (#34 is obviously taken) and talked about being excited to leave behind the "doldrums" of playing out West.
Allen says he watched plenty of Celtics games on TV in his UConn days, and he noted that the team has the richest tradition in the history of the NBA. And while most players profess their desire to join teams that are already title contenders, Allen is enthusiastic about engineering a rebound from the Celtics' injury-riddled, 24-win season.
Ray Allen is engulfed by a throng of media at his Monday press conference in Waltham.
"I don't want to go to a team that's already going to win if I'm not on it. I feel that I can help a team to get over the hump to win a championship," Allen said. "I signed a contract when I was in Milwaukee to stay in Milwaukee and I did the same thing in Seattle, and I always felt that I can help change the attitude of the people in the organization and the team, and we can be moving in that direction."
There's nowhere to go but up and Allen, armed with what he called a "pair of new feet" after a double-ankle surgery ended his season early last year, is already embracing the challenge. He expects to provide leadership by example to a team that is loaded with talented but inexperienced young players.
"It's easy to go somewhere where they're winning already. To bring winning to the organization is my goal," Allen said. "To get my teammates to understand what it takes to win, a little bit of elbow grease and hard work, that's tougher. But the days you worked hard, you forget those days when you start winning."
Allen says he'll mentor his younger teammates about everything from what they eat to how they dress and what they say to the media, and that kind of coaching should make Allen just as valuable in the locker room as he will be on the floor alongside Pierce.
He hasn't yet had a chance to compare notes with Pierce, a player Allen called one of his NBA rivals, but he's already looking forward to developing chemistry with his new tag team partner. He's also excited about playing alongside guys like Al Jefferson, Kendrick Perkins, Gerald Green and Rajon Rondo, all of whom he mentioned by name.
"I always say you have to establish that chemistry before training camp. You have to like each other on the floor. But even when the games start, it's like driving. You don't really learn to drive until you already have your license. So when the season starts, for like the first 20 games you're still learning each other."
Training camp is still two months away, but Allen certainly sounds like he's ready to get going now.