UPDATE: Boston Herald is reporting that according to team sources Tony Allen’s injury as torn ligaments to his thumb. If this is the case Allen could be out for a number of weeks and the scenarios weighed below could become a reality for an indefinite amount of time. Celticshub will have more on TA’s injury as it comes out.
The thumb injury to Tony Allen leaves Doc Rivers in a challenging predicament for the Celtics upcoming two games on the road. With TA not making the trip to New Orleans and Dallas and Brian Scalabrine reportedly out until at least the All Star Break, Rivers will have some decisions to make regarding bench use.
The situation becomes even more desperate given the fact that the two games are back to back. Let’s take a look at the possible ways Rivers could address the situation:
Rush Scal back: Scalabrine has been out of the lineup since January 25th when he suffered a concussion on an elbow from Dirk Nowitzki, and another after suffering an elbow from Patrick O’Bryant during practice. He has been scheduled to be out until at least the All Star Break, to recover from the lingering effects of the concussions.
It is possible however Doc could bring him back in the next two days and slide the 6’9” Scalabrine to the 3 spot to guard two small forwards with size James Posey and James Singleton that come off the bench for New Orleans and Dallas respectively. This would allow Rivers to keep Pierce and Allen at the 2 spot when they play with the bench.
Rivers however tends to be cautious however with his players’ injuries and given the report today on Celtics.com that Scalabrine was not practicing, it would be surprising to see him return early.
Probability of Happening: Not Likely
Keep the bench rotation in place and play the starters more: An appealing option for Rivers I’m sure but one that may seem unrealistic for the back to back games. On the other hand the Celtics will have a full week to rest after the Thursday night Dallas game until they head to Utah next Thursday. One would hope that the flu has made its way out of the Celtics locker room leaving the starters at full stamina for these games.
Rivers has commented in the past though how he does not want to overwork his stars especially given 55 games the team will have had to play before the break this year. It is clear after losing two of the past three games the C’s have a sour taste in their mouth.
Thus it would not shock me at all if Rivers pushed it with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, having them go 40+ minutes both nights to ensure the Celtics go into the All Star Break on a high note.
Probability of Happening: 50/50 for next 2 games. highly unlikely thereafter
Utilize the end of the bench especially Bill Walker and Gabe Pruitt: If there was one excited person in the Celtics organization upon hearing about TA’s injury it would had to have been Bill Walker. The 6’6” shooting guard/small forward is next in line on the depth chart and hasn’t seen the floor since a January 28th blowout of Sacramento at home.
Walker hasn’t played any meaningful minutes this year having seen action in just seven games. The rookie however has shown flashes of athleticism in the preseason with a couple of ridiculous dunks that have left a contingent of Celtics fans wanting more. Rivers therefore could give the youngster an extended look tomorrow night against an injury depleted Hornets team to spare Pierce and Allen and see if the 21 year old can contribute a spark off the bench.
Gabe Pruitt could also see some minutes if Rivers elects to go small with him and House off the bench as the backcourt. I find this less likely given the size of the NO and Dallas benches but it still certainly is an option.
Probability of Happening: Possible but not probable
All in all there is no clear right choice for Rivers to make for this predicament. The Celtics have definitely caught a break with the All Star Break landing right in the middle of this road trip limiting the effect TA’s injury will have for the short term.
X-Rays appear normal for his thumb and it does not sound like TA’s absence will last beyond the next week. (Update: Sounds like he could be out for weeks.) Thus the C’s should be hopeful that this will only be a problem for Rivers to deal with for the next two games.