One commentator recently observed that sometimes the Celtics resemble a team built around The Big Two, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, instead of The Big Three, with Ray Allen joining the other two.
Since I've been saying that since mid-December, no argument here.
But the commentator also went on to say that Ray Allen has been "reduced to a spot-up shooter."
Now that is a fairly pungent insight.
Jerry Sichting was a deadly addition to the Celtics 1985-86 squad, shooting .570 from the field. For the most part, Sichting was getting wide open looks all season long.
Many Celtics fans figured it was reasonable to expect the same shooting prowess from Shuttlesworth, and, after the first five games, that is exactly what Jesus was shooting from the field.
Since then, Allen has struggled. Some of his problems were due to injury. He also has had trouble adjusting to fewer touches, which impeded his ability to find a rhythm.
But I think something else is going on here.
Besides only having to produce for 20 minutes a game, Jerry Sichting had the original Big Three to bail him out. In other words, if a defender ever dared to guard Sichting closely, he knew that likely meant single coverage for one of the All-Star bigs, Bird, McHale, Parish, or Walton. Off the pass went down low, and one of those players would make the defense pay.
Ray Allen doesn't really have a major low post threat to keep the defense honest. Occasionally KG represents that threat. Once in a while BBD gets open underneath. But by and large, this team doesn't really have a guy that earns his paystub playing 24/7 in the paint.
So, the question is, how does Ray Allen go about keeping defenses honest?
The answer is he drives.
If defenses are going to defend him as if his only skill is spot-up shooting, he's gonna have a difficult time shooting a high percentage. But if he drives around defenders who are overplaying him, suddenly the defense will be a little more reluctant to aggressively guard his Js.
My theory is born out by memory, too.
Ray Allen's good games have in fact been witness to Jesus driving to the hoop when defenses overplay him. The Pistons game comes to mind, especially the drive for the reverse dunk.
Ultimately, his failure to drive on other occasions may be the result of injury and lack of rhythm, so all of his problems may be hopelessly intertwined.
But I am starting to think that the best way to assess the state of Ray Allen's health is to see how much he is willing to take it to the hoop.
Let's keep an eye on this.