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CELTICS NOTEBOOK

Allen court case continued to next month

In Chicago, guard pleads not guilty

HOUSTON -- Celtics guard Tony Allen pleaded not guilty yesterday in a Chicago court to three counts of aggravated battery stemming from a late August melee in a Chicago restaurant. Allen then flew back to join his teammates for last night's 91-73 loss to the Rockets at Toyota Center.

The Cook County court appearance was brief. The case was continued until Jan. 17, according to court spokesman Tom Stanton, at which time Allen will not be required to appear. He was required to appear yesterday.

Allen said he landed in Houston around 5:15 p.m. local time and took a cab to Toyota Center. He then warmed up for the game.

''This is really draining," he said. ''I'm a basketball player. I love the game of basketball and that's what I want to focus on, getting healthy and helping my team win. But the only thing I can do through all this is stay strong. But it's really been a drain."

Allen has yet to play this season because he is recovering from mid-September surgery to his right knee.

Allen's attorney, Michael Zaslavsky, said yesterday that the Jan. 17 court session will deal primarily with discovery issues.

A Cook County grand jury last month indicted Allen on the three counts for his alleged role in a fight that escalated into a shooting at White Palace Grill Aug. 28. He is accused of punching a man in the face and breaking his left eye socket during the fight, during which a man was shot in the left arm. Police have said that Allen is not a suspect in the shooting.

Aggravated assault carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail. Allen is free on $150,000 bond, the conditions of which allow him to travel.

Zaslavsky said he has seen a surveillance videotape of the altercation, which the prosecution claims points to Allen as the individual who threw the punch.

Allen also has been sued in civil court by the man he allegedly punched and the man who was shot.

What are friends for?

Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he considered activating native son Gerald Green for last night's game, but decided against it because Green is still bothered by a groin injury. Green and fellow Houston-area teammate Kendrick Perkins may well have been the Rockets' best friends, however, as indicated by their ticket purchases for the evening. Perkins, who is from Beaumont, ended up purchasing 44 tickets while Green bought about half that many. Green, a Houstonian, said his mother also bought a number of tickets . . . Yao Ming had 12 points, 9 rebounds, and a blocked shot in 36 minutes. He also got eight stitches over his right eye, courtesy of a fourth-quarter collision with Brian Scalabrine . . . Tracy McGrady matched his season high with 35 points. Houston is 5-4 in the games in which McGrady dresses, 0-8 in the ones he has missed with back woes . . . Rivers said there have been no discussions lately about sending Green to the NBDL for playing time. ''I look at a week like this where we're only going to practice once, and that was [Monday]," Rivers said. ''Would it have been better for him to play? I don't know. But I also think being on the road is an education, too." . . . Jon Jennings, a Celtics assistant coach under Chris Ford in the early 1990s, has been hired by Senator John Kerry to be director of the senator's offices in Massachusetts. Jennings has been in politics since leaving the Celtics bench 1994; he worked in the Clinton White House. He staged an unsuccessful run for Congress in Indiana last year . . . Why Can't We Get Players Like That Dept.: Antoine Walker went 0 for 10 from the field in 18 minutes in Miami's loss to the Clippers Monday in Los Angeles. He also had four rebounds and four fouls.

OK corral

The Celtics make their first appearance in Oklahoma City tonight against the Hornets. The Ford Center won't bring back pleasant memories for Raef LaFrentz and Paul Pierce, who saw their dream of a national championship in 1998 for Kansas end in that building with a big upset loss to Rhode Island . . . Rivers had lunch yesterday with the coach of his eighth-grade team back in Chicago. The man, James Burnside, moved to Houston years ago. ''He cut me twice," Rivers said . . . Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy sounded like a man on the verge, which he may well be, given the Rockets' brutal start (4-12). He said he is hoping that he and McGrady can turn things around. ''He has been through 1-20 [with Orlando]. He thinks he's seeing deja vu, but he's not," Van Gundy said. ''That's why his and my will and resolve have to be so great." . . . Houston's Jon Barry was in uniform for last night's game after missing three games with a bruised left foot, but he strained his right calf in the first half, hobbled off the court, and did not return . . . Delonte West, Ricky Davis, and Yao all picked up technicals.

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