Is Tony Allen the new Antoine Walker?
Not since the old Employee No. 8 suited up in Green has a player elicited as many wildly opposing emotions and opinions from Celtic fans.
Some see him as an undersized wing player who thinks he's a point guard, dribbles too much, has a suspect shot, and makes way too many poor decisions on the court.
Others see him as a lockdown defender who is fearless, has an incredible nose for driving to the hoop, is the only guy consistently giving 100 percent effort, and is someone who isn't intimidated on either end of the court.
Both sides are have legitimate points. And that's what makes Tony Allen so frustrating and yet a completely necessary part of this team.
The best and worst of Tony Allen were on display during the last two games the C's played against the Grizzlies and Magic (which were two wildly different types of games in and of themselves.)
One minute, he's sailing an ill-advised pass over Wally Szczerbiak's head out-of-bounds for an unforced turnover. (Stop spazzing out, it's an easy pass!!!)
The next, he's taking one dribble and swishing an outside jumper. (If he can hit that, he'll be unstoppable!!)
He dashes down court leading the fast break, pulls up for an easy jumper in the lane. (Yes! He's learning how to avoid charges!!)
Then, he tries to back down a much taller Rudy Gay and gets stuffed under the basket. (Why are you even trying to work in the post on this guy?!?)
He drives into traffic, fails to identify a double-team, and gets swallowed up and called for a travel. (Pass the ball before you're cut off! There was nothing there!)
Then, he weaves through three defenders possession after possession getting hoops and fouls. (No one can stop him!!!)
He drives, draws the defense, and finds a wide-open Wally for an easy three. (Way to recognize the open man, Tony! That was fantastic!)
The next two times down the court, he shoves his defender for an offensive foul, then falls asleep in the paint for an offensive three-second violation (Stop making stupid mistakes!! You're killing us!!)
And all of that was just against the Grizzlies.
Tony Allen has been up and down more hills this season than the Magic could throw at him. (AP Photo)
Against Orlando, it was more of the same incredible highs and frustrating lows:
There were the fantastic post passes to set up Al and Perk with point-blank looks at the basket. (Great looks!)
There was Tony dribbling the ball off his leg with no one in front of him on a fast break. (What?!)
There was the incredible anticipation on defense, forcing steal after steal and setting up good transition opportunities. (Alright!)
There was the failure to recognize his teammates in the lanes on 3-on-2 fast breaks, leading to coast-to-coast bad shots that should have been easy. (Stupid! Stupid!)
There was the much-improved outside jumper forcing his defenders to respect his outside game. (Way to shoot!)
There was the out-of-control eye-level dribbling, leading to calls of carrying the ball or easy steals when an opponent reaches in and knocks it away. (Ugh.)
There was the continued relentless attacking of the boards amongst the trees on both teams. (Nice effort!)
(Wait .. why am I so tired? I'm only watching this on TV …. )
Thus is life watching The Tony Allen Show. It's an exercise in impatient patience. You see how great he can be one minute and how frustrating he can be the next. And you hope he'll put everything together and "get it."
And you don't even have to look much past the recent box scores for the positives and negatives to be reflected. Tony's stats over the last two games: 41 points, 11 rebounds, 10 turnovers, 10 steals, 9 assists, 6 fouls. Those numbers are crazy. He fills up the stat sheet, good and bad categories alike.
But overall during the past three weeks, and especially the last two games, his "goods" have far outweighed his "bads." This Celtic team needs Tony Allen being aggressive on both ends of the court. Sometimes aggressive play leads to unintended consequences, like bad fouls and turnovers. But when it pays off, it pays off big – with confidence-building drives, team-lifting passes, and with momentum-changing steals.
Much like Antoine, Tony brings so many moments of frustration and exhilaration within the course of a single game. But unlike many of his current teammates, you have the feeling he can make a huge impact every time he is on the court. And until Paul Pierce comes back, the C's will ride those ups and downs for as long as they can.