WALTHAM - Ray Allen looked great at practice yesterday.
"He was standing there, right beside me most of the time, so he looked phenomenal," coach Doc Rivers joked. "He didn't do too much. We didn't want him to do a lot of cutting and running. He'll be fine for [tonight's game]. He said he feels great. I don't know if it's true or not."
Allen plans to be in uniform tonight against the Pistons, arguably the biggest game of the young season for the new-look Celtics. He missed the last two games, relatively easy wins over the Bucks (home) and Raptors (away) to rest his sore right ankle, which he originally hurt in Charlotte two days after Thanksgiving.
Rivers held Allen out of much of yesterday's 90-minute workout, but afterward, Allen said the rest was helpful in him getting his lift back and that he was encouraged by his post-practice shooting drills.
"It's good to be back on the floor," he said. "The shooting was great for me. A week around here and so much happens. Some weeks it's 4-5 games and you've got to do everything you can to stay in shape when you miss a couple games."
While the Celtics have blown from the gates by winning 20 of 22, one of the intriguing storylines has been Allen's rather underwhelming shooting percentage. A career 44.6 percent shooter, he is shooting just 40.8 percent this season, which would be a career low. His previous lows were 42.8 percent efforts in 1997-98, his second year in the NBA, and in 2004-05, his second full season in Seattle. He's also shooting a career-worst 35.3 percent from international waters.
But he's also made two of the biggest shots of the season for the Celtics, who haven't had many of them because the outcomes usually have been decided long before the last possession. His 3-pointer in Toronto represented the winning basket in the second game of the season. He also drained a trey as time expired to give the Celtics a 1-point win in Charlotte Nov. 24, the game in which he first rolled the ankle in question.
And it's not like opposing teams won't guard Allen because he isn't shooting well. He still demands coverage because of who he is and what he has done.
"Ray is so strong-willed," Rivers said. "He thinks he's going to make the next 20. And he is very professional in keeping his body in shape."
Allen never told anyone when he first rolled the ankle, but he then took two days off before playing again, missing the Nov. 26 practice at North Carolina-Charlotte to rest. But he said the ankle never fully responded to treatment and he finally talked to Rivers about the situation. He said he never really wanted to miss the two games but did so only at the urging of the coach.
"I hated it [the time off]," Allen said. "I didn't want to do it. I didn't want it to be a big issue. I didn't want to talk about it with my teammates. Doc and I had a conversation about it. But truly the people who needed to know what was going on were the trainer and the strength coaches. So, that's how I've been dealing with it.
"You maneuver around being hurt, being out, by getting better, getting strong in the weight room, and doing the necessary treatment," he continued. "So I try to take care of that before I come in here and go out on the floor. Then you see how your body responds. If it were up to me, I wouldn't sit down. When [Rivers] found out, I wanted to be upfront and honest with him and let him know it was something I'd been dealing with. He said, 'Take your time and get your body healthy. If you need to take a couple days off, I'm all for it."'
The area in which Allen sees the most improvement? In his lift. He said he was even looking at old basketball cards of himself shooting to see how much lift he was getting. Whatever it was these past few weeks, it wasn't enough.
"Just in the last week and a half, just having that little joint pain in my ankle, and not having the lift like I wanted to," he said. "A lot of my shots, in my mind, they felt good, but they were coming up short. I look forward to getting that back."