To show you just how far Avery Bradley has come, the fact that Ray Allen may not be available for the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs has hardly caused a ripple across Celtic Nation. It is, in fact, one of the biggest non-story lines of the first round, something that would have been heretofore unfathomable when the season started. Think about it for a minute; if I had told you on opening night that Ray Allen - The Greatest 3-point Shooter in the History of the NBA Ray Allen – would injure his right ankle, rendering him unable to help his team during a brutal stretch to decide whether the Celtics would win the Atlantic Division or face the Bulls in the first round, you would have gone into panic mode. Don’t lie. Think about it. No Ray Allen. Oh, and no Mickael Pietrus either. Instead, we’re going to insert second year player Avery Bradley into the lineup and trust that we can someone win enough games to avoid that killer opening round opponent.
Admit it, you would have hit the panic button and called the season over. Especially if I told you that our Celtics would be so short-handed that Kevin Garnett would be starting at the center position. Well, guess what? There’s a pretty good likelihood that Allen will miss at least part of that opening round series against Atlanta. And even if he comes back, you have to assume that he’ll be rusty. Maybe not from a conditioning standpoint, but definitely from a a game-readiness standpoint. Rhythm shooters like Allen need time to calibrate.
Which begs the question: Can the Celtics win without Ray Allen? Can they do it on the road, knowing that they’ll likely be the 5-seed and the Hawks the 4? My answer, at the start of the season, would have been ‘no’. Emphatically no. But those were different times.
Avery Bradley is emerging.
So right now I’m less concerned about Allen making an appearance. Don’t get me wrong – having him come off the bench would figure to be a boost, but something tells me the Celtics can get it done without him. Maybe I’ll change my mind as the series moves on, but right now I’m not as concerned.
The second round is a different story. If the Celtics are truly going to make a run, they need Allen back in the lineup and as close to 100% as humanly possible. Otherwise, we’re done. Stick a fork in us. Break out the golf clubs and start planning for training camp in the fall.
So take your time, but be sure to hurry back, Ray.
We love you, and we need you.
Especially in the second round.