Ray Allen is a decent human being. He’s won the Sportsmanship Award. He’s been written up for his decency by legitimate news sources. He’s on that NBA Cares tip. He reads. He made his team visit the Holocaust Memorial. My girlfriend knows that Ray Allen’s a good guy, and she pronounces Celtics with a hard “C.”
But behind that gentle smile is a hugely, almost oppressively confident dude. He talks often of his need to be the best at anything he does. He’s obsessed with his clothes and taking care of his immaculate scalp. He gets upset when anyone refers to his God-given talent: “I tell those people, ‘Don’t undermine the work I’ve put in every day.’” He butted heads with George Karl and his Milwaukee teammates and fought Doc’s style when he first showed up in Boston.
And last night, he refused to sit down when everyone, including possibly Doc himself, thought he should.
As Doc himself admitted, he was considering sitting Ray for Game 2 before Ray outright shot down that idea. Doc had his reasons: Ray’s legs were all over the place on his jumpers (distressing for someone who prides himself on his “phone booth” shooting form), and his ankles hurt so badly he can’t even work out (an essential part of his daily game prep). But as Doc and the training staff deliberated, Ray went to them and presumably told them the same thing he told Chris Forsberg: “I really, really do not want to go that route. Just put me out there and let me do the best I can.”
The on-court results have dictated the response to Ray’s behavior: he shot pretty well and played passable defense on Dwyane Wade, so now it’s easy to say that Ray “knows his abilities” better than anyone else does and he was right to play. But I assure you those results had nothing to do with Ray’s decision.
If he had any say in the decision, Ray was going to play no matter what. He would have played even if he was only capable of repeating his Game 1 shooting. He would have played on one ankle, or with both his ankles fused together, or on four ankles. When he hits a skid, even if it’s clearly brought about by an injury that can only be fixed through surgery, he believes he can shoot his way out of it. That’s who he is. And it’s not entirely about his devotion to his team: it’s also that Ray believes to a fault that he’s the best shooter on the floor at all times, and he will accept no argument to the contrary. He may still not be 100% fixed: his balance still looked shaky even on his makes last night, he had virtually no luck getting any clearance from his defenders with his speed, and he airballed a three. But if it’s up to him, he’s going to play.
I love Ray for what he is, not what people think he is. I actually think his being an OCD weirdo is more interesting than him being pure sunshine and bubblegum. But his confidence is, one way or another, likely to be one of the deciding factors of this series. If Ray hits 40% of his threes the rest of the way and gives Boston the fourth scoring option they need to win, great. That’s what we signed up for with him. But if he backslides? Loses his legs again, and opens the floor up for Wade to go off every night, all because of his unshakeable pride? We signed up for that, too.