Ray Allen not letting age catch up to him
MIAMI — Ray Allen heard the whispers in Seattle. He got wind of them in Boston. Now he’s heard some in Miami.
Whenever Allen has gone into a shooting slump in recent years, he has been aware of talk that perhaps he’s finally getting close to the end of the line.
“When I was 31, people said that. They said it when I was 34,’’ said Allen, 37, who is in his first season with the Heat after previously having stints in his 30s with the SuperSonics and Celtics. “As a player in this league, once you get over 30, people say that you’re slowing down, that you’re over the hill. But for me it doesn’t really make a difference because the game has slowed down a lot more for me because I see it a lot easier (with his experience).’’
There was some talk a few weeks ago of slippage by the shooting guard when he went through a dreadful stretch. In a five-game period at the start of this month, Allen shot just 4 of 28 (14.3 percent), including 1 of 12 (8.3 percent) from 3-point range.
But anybody who thought Allen was getting tapped out as a jump shooter was greatly mistaken. In his past seven games, Allen has shot 34 of 72 (47.2 percent), including 19 of 39 from (48.7 percent) beyond the arc.
Over his past three games, Allen has shot 12 of 19 (63.2 percent) on 3-pointers. That includes Tuesday’s 141-129 double-overtime win over Sacramento, when he was 5 of 10 and scored 21 points.
“We never wondered why he was in a slump,” forward LeBron James said about those on the Heat. “He never worried about it …. He’s a huge threat …. Ray is one of those few guys in our league that can miss 99 in a row and that 100th one, if you’re not guarding it, he’s going to drain it.”
James always had admired Allen from afar. Now he has seen first hand the tremendous work ethic Allen has.
Allen’s workout routines over the years have been legendary. He has often been regarded as the best conditioned player in the NBA.
One way Allen keeps in shape is riding his bike. Allen purchased a $10,000 custom-made ultra-light bike in 2010.
James has gotten plenty of publicity this season for his biking, which has included trips for games and practices. Turns out Allen has joined James for rides on several occasions this season and the ultra-competitive James even admits Allen is better cyclist.
“Ray’s got clips and all that stuff,’’ James said. “So I’ll give it to him.’’
The modest Allen wouldn’t say who is the better cyclist. But he did recount one incident which shows the competitiveness of both.
“Me and LeBron were riding one time from his house (to practice at AmericanAirlines Arena),’’ said Allen, who said he and James get recognized when they’re riding and often get honks of approval. “There was one of LeBron’s (management) guys riding with us. Three bikers, they passed us …. I looked at LeBron and said, ‘You know we can’t let them go by us like that.’ So we left the (management) guy behind us and we rode all the way (to the arena) and caught their tails. It was pretty funny.’’
Those bikers were hardly the first guys to get chased down by James and Allen. But the fact Allen is still doing it at 37 is amazing.
Few shooting guards besides Allen and Reggie Miller, who made it to 39, have played effectively at that age. Michael Jordan did come back to average 20 points with Washington at age 40, but he had moved to small forward and was playing more inside.
“He’s a phenom,’’ Miami forward Chris Bosh said. “An older phenom just with the way he stays in shape, the way he looks, his approach. He’s better than some 27-year-olds.’’
With that mind, it is no wonder those on the Heat weren’t concerned when Allen went through his recent rough spot.
“I never even mentioned anything to him,’’ Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It never got to the point where I even raised an eyebrow about it.’’
Allen didn’t either. After all, this is a guy who has made the most 3-pointers in NBA history and is a certain Hall of Famer.
“It’s like finding a rhythm and just kind of roll with it,’’ Allen said of breaking out of his slump. “But sometimes just being on the floor is good enough. You don’t have to make a shot …. If defenses have to pay attention to me, then my job is halfway done.’’
Spoelstra often says that Allen’s reputation alone makes him dangerous. Having that threat to help open up things further for James, Bosh and Dwyane Wade was a key reason the Heat signed Allen last summer to a two-year, $6.3 million contract.
Allen has a player option for next season worth $3.2 million and said he won’t decide until the summer whether he will invoke it. But there seems to be little doubt Allen, who is averaging 11 points over 25.9 minutes off the bench and shooting 42.7 percent on 3-pointers, still has a few years left in him.
“I’ve been fortunate that the way I prepare and the way I approach the game, I’ve always given myself the best opportunity,’’ Allen said. “As you get older, you feel like you need a little bit more conditioning …. My conditioning has to be a little better than everybody else’s.’’
Allen, who also watches his diet carefully and gave up red meat a few years ago, spends many an off day cycling or running on a treadmill. But he also knows he must back off at times because he doesn’t want to overdo it at his age.
Apparently, nobody on the Heat has noticed Allen ever take it easy. Forward Rashard Lewis sometimes shows up early in the morning for a workout only to find Allen already on the treadmill.
Lewis was Allen’s teammate with the SuperSonics from 2003-07 and knows him better than anybody on the Heat. When Lewis was a young player, he said Allen provided valuable advice.
“I learned a lot from him in Seattle,’’ said Lewis, 33. “He was the reason I went and got a cycle made to fit my size and he got me riding around because that’s a good way to keep your legs strong and your body in shape. … He taught me good eating habits, that what you put in your body is what you get out of it. I know he eats a lot of fish and stays away from fried foods. I eat a lot of fish in general.’’
The hints helped enough for Lewis to become a two-time All-Star and rank eighth in NBA history with 1,719 3-pointers. But that’s well behind Allen, who has hit 2,812 and is showing lately he’s a good bet to make a lot more.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson.