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Celtics notebook

Age-old question

Iverson news leaves veterans wondering

By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / November 27, 2009

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The report of the sudden retirement of Allen Iverson sent a reality shock through the older Celtics. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Rasheed Wallace are from the same NBA generation as Iverson. All of them entered the league in the mid-to-late 1990s, played against each other, and hung out at All-Star Weekend.

Some members of the Big Three began to contemplate their NBA mortality, including Allen, 34, who endured double ankle surgery two years ago and erased doubts as to whether his career as an All-Star-caliber player was done.

With his contract expiring after the season - at $19 million this season - Allen’s days as one of the league’s highest-paid players are probably gone. The question is: After 14 years, how much longer does he want to play?

“Not only do I think about [Iverson], but then you think about our whole class and all the guys who are just starting to fall off,’’ Allen said. “Before you know it, it’s a generation past, and everybody is taking off and headed to greener pastures. For me, these days, this is like gravy time for me to be able to continue to play and feel good about it and be strong and my body feels great and to be fresh.’’

Allen takes immaculate care of himself and is probably one of the few players who is lighter now than when he entered the league. A player he is often compared with is Reggie Miller, who played until he was 39 and averaged 14.8 points per game in his final season. Miller played 1,389 games virtually injury free. The Celtics’ 113-110 win over Philadelphia Wednesday night was Allen’s 957th career game.

Allen is 10th in games among active players. Garnett is tied for third and Wallace is sixth.

“I try not to think about it,’’ Allen said when asked how much longer he will play. “You figure I am at 14 now, 19, 20 is a very long, extensive career. So I am definitely inside that amount of time, so I try not to even worry about it. If I keep myself in shape, I never have to worry about getting out.

“My kids, they are growing up, I would like for them to see what I am doing, and appreciate it and enjoy it. Try to enjoy it as long as I can.’’

Allen said he would be open to a reduced role as he got older, something Iverson refused to do.

“Whatever I need to do, I’ll do,’’ said Allen, who has started 954 games. “I think the biggest thing for us as veterans as we get toward the end of our career is you want to play for a team that’s contending for a championship. Sometimes if you go to a team contending for a championship, you are going to have to come off the bench.’’

Ray of hope
Tony Allen is getting closer to returning. Coach Doc Rivers flirted with putting Allen on the active roster Wednesday, but Allen is likely to make his season debut during the four-game road trip beginning Sunday in Miami.

“I feel all right,’’ he said. “I need to get more explosive and get more lift as far as my shot. I just want to make sure it’s right.’’

Allen underwent right ankle surgery Aug. 3 and has practiced intermittently the past few weeks. He has only practiced consistently the past 10 days and doesn’t want to return prematurely.

“I don’t feel there’s [a] need to rush it and [get] hurt and I would have to sit out another four games,’’ he said. “I don’t want to be off and on. I want to finish the whole season not worried.’’

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