by Khalid Salaam
I’ve never had much of a chemistry when interviewing Ray Allen. Which is fine of course, but it’s just one of those things I notice. There are some guys who answer your questions with energy and some guys who don’t. Allen falls under the last category; anytime I’ve tried to ask him a question I always get back a dry, somewhat snarky reply. Which again is fine, it’s unrealistic to assume every guy will answer questions with some sort of great joy. Maybe he’s not the talkative type, fine so what? Whether or not Allen is a good interview doesn’t affect where I place him on our list. Thirty-five seems like a very logical spot for him.
First I’ll give you some numbers, that way the words that come later can exist in the proper context. Ray Allen is an eight-time All-Star and while politics, popularity and occasionally injuries play a part in who goes the Mid-Winter Classic, it’s safe to say Ray Allen earned his appearances. With most of his career spent in Milwaukee (’96-’03) and Seattle (’03-’07), no TV rating conspiracy makes sense nor does the obsession of a national fan base since I can count on one hand (actually one finger) the number of Sonics and Bucks fans I know personally and non-personally. Allen won an Olympic Gold Medal in the 2000 Sydney Games, holds the record for most 3-pointers made in a season (269) and is second on the all-time 3-pointers made list.
I don’t care if you’re hating on his past life – yes, I know this is all about the upcoming season, but it’s relevant. He’s in great shape, and even without his since-gone youth he can still do what he always has done. Just not all the time. That’s why Boston’s depth is so important because they have older guys in important roles. Having depth allows Allen to play at a high level, so while he may be on the verge of his 13th year in the League, you won’t always be able to tell. And as the numbers from earlier remind us, when he’s able, he very capable.
Some of you will bring up his playoff performance from last year and say he’s rated too high. That’s cool, you have that right. He had the worst slump I’ve ever seen a star have. He was as cold as ice during the playoffs, especially in the second round. Based on his performance against the Cavs, you would have had to place him behind Wally Szczerbiak. He was beyond abysmal, allowing himself and the Celtics absolutely no margin for error. That they had homecourt advantage and still almost lost to a Cleveland team with an inferior roster (except for Mr. YankeeCowboyBulls of course) was a testament to how mediocre Allen had been. But his display of talent and moxie against the Lakers in the Finals put to bed talks of his demise and reinserted his name into the minds of basketball fans. Allen’s no. 35 ranking is to remind people that he’s not washed up.
You still can’t leave him open, and you still have to put at least a competent defender on him – a guy who can move his feet since Allen will still occasionally drive to the hole. He still can get open easier than 80 percent of the guards in this league, and he can still hit the long ball. One of the best to ever do it still has the ability to take over a game from outside the arc. Remember he holds the record now for most 3-point field goals made in a single Finals series (and that was only 6 games), so he’s still a factor. He’s not really much of an athlete anymore (although he has his moments), but his basketball smarts are as high as ever. Now that he’s experienced what it’s like to be a champ, I doubt he (or his teammates) are ready to give up that feeling quite yet.
Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.