OK, check out this picture. It's Ray Allen after Wednesday's practice and he's in devastating form. Allen is in the best shape among his teammates with less than two weeks before the season opener. Or, put another way, when Allen plays his old team, the Boston Celtics. (More on that at the bottom of this post.)*
The addition of Allen has the potential to transform the Heat into a completely different offensive team this season. Coming off the bench, as Allen is projected, will add a burst of consistent energy that was lacking last season. Taking nothing away from the Heat's three-point shooters from last season, but Allen adds a different element to the Heat's attack. In NBA parlance, Allen is a true "catch and shoot" three-point specialist who has the ability to run around screens and double screens to find his shot. It's a specific and hard-to-find skill set that distinguishes Allen from the Heat's other main wing players, Dwyane Wade, Mike MIller, Shane Battier, LeBron James.
Miller, Battier, James Jones and even Rashard Lewis (to a degree) are, as Heat coach Erik Spoelstra put it on Wednesday, "primarly spot-up-and-shoot players." Allen, on the other hand, "has built a career of coming off screens and making plays."
In other words, Allen is quite literally running circles around his teammates during training camp. Spoelstra has been adding new sets to the team's offense specifically for its new sixth man, the NBA's all-time leader in three-pointers.
Last season, Allen was at his best against the Heat. In two games against Miami, he averaged 18.5 points per game and shot 66.7 percent from three-point distance. Among teams Allen faced more than once last season, he only averaged more points against the Lakers (19.5 ppg in two contests). Yes, he's a big-game player.
Allens' high work rate during games does another important thing other than find open shots and bury three-pointers: he wears down opponents. Fatigued shooting guards, charged with chasing Allen throughout a game, will have less in the tank at the end of games. Dwyane Wade can attest to this. For Boston coach Doc Rivers, Allen's ability to wear down Wade was just as important as Allen's accuracy from behind the arc.
*Jackie MacMullen of ESPN.com delivered an insightful piece on the rise of Rajon Rondo in Boston on Wednesday. The story included some details on the falling out between Rondo and Allen last season, delivered by none other than South Florida native Keyon Dooling...
"Ray was great in many ways," Dooling said. "Rondo learned a lot from him -- how to prepare, how to take care of his body, how to be professional.
"But the way Ray led was different than how Rajon did it. Not wrong, just different.
"Ray didn't know how to communicate with Rondo the way some of us could, like myself, like KG, who fully embraced Rajon.
"I love Ray. I love his family. He's a true pro. But it's unfair how this all came out. Ray had such a good relationship with all the reporters and Rondo was so quiet. So who gets all the good press?
"Sometimes it felt like Ray spent more time talking to the media than he did to his teammates.''