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Win hit nerve for Allen

Celtics guard rues his team’s demise

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / June 17, 2011

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As a token of appreciation for giving the Sarah Greenwood elementary school in Dorchester a $30,000 computer lab, Boston Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Carol Johnson grabbed a Bruins championship T-shirt and handed it to Ray Allen yesterday.

The Celtics guard smiled and pretended he could wear the shirt, even though it was clearly a size too small. Maybe two sizes.

But while the city was celebrating the return of the Stanley Cup after 39 years, Allen was thinking about how the Celtics season ended — with a loss to the Heat in the second round of the playoffs.

“As much as I was happy for them, there was a bit of anger that I had,’’ Allen said. “As an athlete, that’s something we always shoot for, reaching that height.

“I’m extremely happy for them for what they’ve done for Boston. When you see it from the other side, you see how much bigger it is than just yourself. You see how many people are rooting for you.

“Sometimes when we’re on our own little path, our own little journey, we forget the intensity of the moment. No matter how egotistical we may be or how insular we may be, these moments are so much bigger than us.’’

Allen didn’t bother tuning in to the NBA Finals until he heard Dallas was up by double digits in the deciding game.

“I was watching on my phone,’’ he said. “I was in North Carolina. I didn’t want to watch, but when I knew they were up by 10 in the fourth quarter, I turned it on.

“I was at my sister’s house. Everybody knew that I didn’t want to watch, so they honored me. The TV was on some movie.

“So when they were up 10, I was like, ‘Put it on the game.’ Everybody was like, ‘No, don’t put it on the game, because then you’re going to jinx them.’ But they ended up pulling it out.’’

What bugged Allen most was the feeling that Boston was as good as either team in the Finals, if not better. The Celtics won the season series with Miami, 3-1, but were swept by Dallas, 2-0.

“We lost to Dallas twice this year, but we still liked our chances against them,’’ he said. “It was just us playing our best basketball. A kid asked me earlier who was our toughest opponent we had to face this year, and I said it was ourselves.’’

Since the season ended, Allen has spent time with family in North Carolina. He also exercised the player option on the two-year, $20 million contract he signed last summer, choosing to return to Boston. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and coach Doc Rivers will all return as well.

“I didn’t flinch too much about it,’’ he said. “I think about the teams around the league that potentially I could have went to, and you look at what we have, and it’s too valuable. You can’t let it go.’’

Whether the season starts on time is uncertain, however, with players and owners trying to reach a collective bargaining agreement by July 1, when the existing agreement expires.

Allen said he’s preparing himself for a lockout and expects it to eat into the season.

“There does seem like there’s going to be some games lost,’’ he said. “I hope not, but you prepare for the worst.

“From a team perspective, everybody just try to stay connected with each other so when it breaks, we need to hit the ground running.

“Last time [in 1998], it sent a lot of guys into retirement. A lot of guys were taken by storm, whether they were out of shape or somewhere where they weren’t ready to get to training camp.’’

Yesterday was the first time Allen spoke to the media since Celtics president Danny Ainge floated the idea that either he or Pierce could come off the bench, to give more minutes to Jeff Green. Allen has said he has no problem with coming off the bench, but recent attempts to get stars to transition into reserve roles — notably Allen Iverson in Detroit and Memphis — have exploded in teams’ faces.

“It’s weird that guys have always looked at it like coming off the bench has been such a bad thing,’’ said Allen. “I know we went through the situation with Iverson, he didn’t want to come off the bench.

“You’re always worried more about who finishes games but more importantly, when you’re on a winning team, winning the game is the ultimate objective. That’s my primary concern. I want to win.

“I looked at our record this year, it was sad that we didn’t get to 60 wins. We should have had 60 wins, based on the games we lost.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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