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Allen in shape to contribute

Veteran guard is up and running

Kicking off the preseason Wednesday night, veteran guard Ray Allen said he’s as fit as ever. Kicking off the preseason Wednesday night, veteran guard Ray Allen said he’s as fit as ever. (Gabriel Hernandez/Associated Press)
By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / October 9, 2009

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WALTHAM - Ray Allen is often compared with Reggie Miller because of his shooting prowess and wiry frame. Allen turned 34 in July and would like to emulate Miller in another way: remaining a productive player into his late 30s.

If you recall, Miller nearly came out of retirement to sign with the Celtics a few months before the 2007-08 championship season. He was nearly 42 but with his physical condition and perimeter game, Miller still maintained worth in NBA circles.

What’s more, Miller had averaged 14.8 points in his final NBA season as a 39-year-old.

Entering the final season of his contract and seeking to return to Boston, Allen reported to camp in the best shape of his career - if that’s possible for a player known for his elite conditioning.

“There are times when my body’s feeling great that I have to take advantage of it,’’ Allen said when asked why he dedicated himself to getting into pristine shape. “I always said the more we run, the better it makes the rest of our game so I’m just trying to just remember to get up and down the floor. I focused on getting my body fat low but putting more muscle weight on and having my legs good. I think of all the goals during the season, one of the biggest for us is to stay healthy.’’

While the Celtics’ focus in training camp has been Kevin Garnett’s rehabilitation from knee surgery, Allen’s decline in the postseason was a cause for concern. He shot 48 percent during the regular season, his best clip since 2000-01, but with no Garnett in the playoffs, opposing defenses focused on Allen, whose shooting dipped to 40 percent, 35 percent from the 3-point line.

Fatigue may have been a factor, especially with Allen approaching his 34th birthday, and the guard also said he was nursing a sore hamstring during the postseason that was diagnosed as a sore lower back. So that’s why he was running sprints after practice as if he were still in high school. Shirtless, Allen ran with fluidity and precision, determined to tire himself out.

“I think about field goal percentage, I think about 3-point field goal percentage and all those things are directly related to what kind of condition I am in,’’ said Allen, who scored 8 points in the 96-90 exhibition loss to the Rockets in Hidalgo, Texas, Wednesday night. “I did do a lot more this summer. I never really eat too bad but a lot things, you know you go to barbecues and eat more hot dogs and cheeseburgers on the grill, I cut that back a little earlier. It was just one of those things that felt necessary.’’

Allen’s 2006-07 season in Seattle was limited to 55 games, and he underwent surgery on both ankles to remove bone spurs and scar tissue near the end of that campaign. The Celtics acquired him three months after the surgery with questions surrounding his long-term health. Two-plus years after the procedure, Allen said he feels little aftereffects after experiencing ankle trouble for years in Seattle and Milwaukee.

“Great,’’ he said about the ankles. “I was telling Marquis [Daniels] earlier, all the drills that we do defensively, when I came here in ’08 . . . every time I stepped down, I felt like crunchiness, like it was just stinging me. But training camp-wise, this is the best my feet have felt.’’

Celtics coach Doc Rivers was not pleased about how the trip to Hidalgo affected the team’s practice schedule. He called off practice yesterday and the team will have a light workout three hours before tonight’s matchup with the New York Knicks at TD Garden.

Six of the final seven preseason games come against Atlantic Division teams and Rivers said he prefers playing division opponents to reduce travel and maximize practice opportunity.

“We’re behind in some ways, but we knew that, that we were going to take our time,’’ he said. “We have some new guys and they need to take their time to learn. I like playing those teams a lot, mainly because of the travel. I think when you live in Boston, you should play Jersey, New York, and Philly.’’

Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com.

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