Even the assistant coaches watched on with reverence.
The elevation of Ray Allen’s patented jumper, burned into the consciousness of his sport like Michael Jordan’s tongue-wagging drives or Larry Bird’s elbows-high release, was the last thing on the Miami Heat’s practice court Saturday. And, it should be noted, it was to no one’s surprise. Allen’s discipline and work ethic are a gold standard around the league.
But the significance of the scene was undeniable all the same. Here was the game’s all-time leader in three-pointers taking aim at the Heat’s rims not with shades of green on his jersey but hues of red on his chest. One by one, coaches of the Heat crowded around their team’s newest star until four assistants had formed a circle of respect around the rhythmic up-and-down of Allen’s shot.
It went on for 20 minutes this way until, eventually, some of the Heat’s younger training-camp players, Garrett Temple among them, joined Allen in a shooting game. Allen won, of course, and explained to Temple it was time for him to run a few sprints for his loss. Temple took off down the court without question.
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“I’m getting a chance to practice with these young guys and it definitely keeps me sharp,” Allen said. “And they want to beat me, so I’ve got to do everything I can to stay on top.”
The addition of Allen to the Heat’s roster created quite a buzz on the team’s first day of training camp. He drew just as many reporters — dozens — as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. For Allen, just being in Miami’s practice gym was a surreal experience.
“I was down there on the other side of the floor and I was changing into my uniform and I kind of glanced out the window and I saw some water and I was wondering where I was for a minute there,” Allen said. “Just knowing that it’s so nice outside and it’s tropical … but it is unusual because I’ve been in cold weather for so long. It’s a change but change is definitely good.”
Allen, schooled in the demanding defensive style of Boston coach Doc Rivers, is catching on quickly to the Heat’s system. Some of the terminology is different, but nothing a future Hall of Famer can’t gobble down and master in a week or so.
“I had to be a student pretty much the whole day [Saturday],” Allen said.
Allen was being humble. But the truth is, it was his Heat teammates who were having a little trouble keeping up with Allen on the first day of camp. Just like he had done for so many years with the Celtics, Allen found holes in the Heat’s defense during team drills.
“He knows our defensive schemes pretty well, and he knows where to go to,” Mario Chalmers said. “It’s going to help us a lot because now we know where the holes in our defense are with a person like that. He’s been playing against us for several years and been a key matchup for us.”
PITTMAN SLIMS DOWN
Heat center Dexter Pittman will be fighting for a roster spot. To prepare himself, he slimed down to 275 pounds in the offseason. It’s the lightest he’s been since he was teenager.
“Nothing is guaranteed for me,” Pittman said. “I’ve got to work hard and show them what I can.”
Pittman worked out with football player Dwayne Bowe of the Kansas City Chiefs during the summer. The Heat’s backup center also has been working with Alonzo Mourning’s old chef to help him keep the weight off.
“I’ll be down to 265 by the time the season starts,” Pittman said. “I’ve just got to get used to playing with this body now.”