Allen's injury has him out of control


Ray Allen went to the store before a recent game.

On the surface, it seemed like an everyday task, just running out to grab a few household items before heading to the TD Garden later that day.

To Allen, it was a deviation from the routine he has established over the past 16 years in the NBA.

I went to the store the other day, he said, pausing and then repeating, I went to the store the other day and there was a game. I would never go to the store on game days, but I had to pick up some things around the house. But if it was game day, I would have had somebody else go. I would never go myself.

Allen has maintained a sense of control over his career. His game day routines are meticulously scheduled. Morning workouts, afternoon naps, and pregame meals all have a specific time leading up to his early arrival at the arena to get up shots hours before tipoff.

But an ankle injury this season has stripped Allen of the control he has held so tightly. The uncertainty of when he will be able to play has altered his routine, leaving him with unwanted time on his hands as the game day clock that used to run so smoothly is now ticking in place.

You find yourself trying to make up things to kind of bring that control back to your existence, Allen told Like trying to understand game days, trying to understand, 'What am I eating right now? How am I sleeping?' Its such a routine that Ive built in that now Im looking around trying to figure out, what am I going to do in this situation? What am I going to today? Its game day. Do I stay in the back? What do I do?

Allen has missed 16 games because of a right ankle injury he suffered in March. The 36-year-old guard returned for five games in April (one as a starter, four off the bench) before being sidelined again. He did not play in Game 1 of the Celtics' first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks and is listed as day-to-day for Game 2.

Allen said surgery after this season is inevitable, but for now, he is faced with uncertainty as he tries to get back on the court during the playoffs. After following the same routine for so long, though, veering off track is challenging.

Its almost like when youre younger, you just kind of flip and flutter throughout the universe and you think everything is great, Allen said. When youre young, thats all right because you dont know any better. But when you get older and youve done something for so longlike I look at a clock, I know where Im supposed to be. Now I look at a clock and Im just trying to stay out of everybodys way.

Its tough because when youre out, you want to be there for everybody and you want to be part of the team, but also you stay out of the way because everybody needs to get what they need so they can be ready for the game.

The notion that a future Hall of Famer and the NBAs all-time leading three-point shooter could be in the way seems inconceivable. His presence in the locker room alone is invaluable, giving advice, sharing experiences, and supporting his teammates by simply being there.

Allen sees it differently, though. If he isnt going to play, he doesnt want to interfere with the preparation of someone who is.

If Im on the training room table, and normally Im going through trying to get treatment and therapy, and somebodys got to come in, Ill get out of the way because theyre playing, he explained. Normally Ill get a massage before the game. But if I dont play, Im like, Im not getting a massage. You guys need the massage getting ready for the game, getting your legs right. Its like, if youre not playing in the game or if Im not starting or whatever it was, Ill go rebound for whoever needs to get shots and needs to get ready. Its just making an adjustment.

Allen traces his desire for control back to his upbringing in a military household. He learned about discipline early on, including the consequences of misbehavior. When Allen was a child, he was caught trying to steal Twizzlers from a shopette on the military base. His mother was called and Allen worried how his actions would affect his entire family.

Growing up, discipline, I just always knew that I had accountability and if I did something that affects my fathers job, then it cost all of us more money, more food, he said. So I was like, I need to control what I need to control so I didnt put myself and my family in this situation.

Allens control throughout his career goes beyond a game day routine. Since entering the league, he has participated in a rigorous offseason training regime to keep his body feeling years younger than he actually is. From the beginning of his time in the NBA, he has been planning to extend his longevity in the league.

Allen has mapped out his routine down to the smallest detail, including timing his meals to have the most energy when it the game starts. But when his status is in question, whether or not to eat lunch becomes a significant decision to make.

I dont eat lunch on game day, but I do eat lunch when Im not playing, he explained. When I know Im playing, I dont eat lunch and I know Im going to be at the gym at a certain time, get my shots up. I basically prepare to eat so I know Im going to be playing in a game I need food in my system. But since I havent been playing, Ill go home and eat lunch because I dont need to get up after my nap and eat a pregame meal to be ready for four quarters of basketball.

Allens status for the remainder of this season is uncertain. So his is future with the Boston Celtics. Allen is an unrestricted free agent this summer and is sure to attract offers from other teams around the league. Then there is the situation of whether he will return to the starting lineup or transition to the second unit.

With so many question marks surrounding Allens future, he makes sure one thing is certain.

I think Id never give up who I am, he said. This is who I am. Even in my retirement, Ill still find ways to still have my control. And while Im doing this, I want to give everything I have."

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