Left Wanting More: A Complicated Goodbye to Lavoy Allen

Left Wanting More: A Complicated Goodbye to Lavoy Allen

I'll be the first to admit that this is at least a day or two late. For practical reasons, I held off on writing a Temple-San Diego State recap until my emotions no longer clouded my judgment. A rant about what went wrong would have been just as unthoughtful as a gushing lovefest about "how hard those boys fought." Sometimes, it just takes a bit to put it all together, especially when you're discussing something as emotionally consuming as sport.

What you'll find below still isn't a recap. It's actually a lot more complicated. And, it is because it's complicated that I have devoted more than 140 characters to the topic's consideration.

Many, if not all of you, by now know that the Temple Owls were eliminated from the NCAA tournament on Saturday night following a double-overtime loss to the San Diego State Aztecs. During and following the game, Temple senior Lavoy Allen became and stayed a "trending topic" within the city of Philadelphia on Twitter. While some of the words were complimentary, many of them—the large majority, in fact—were not.

This isn't really about the reductive qualities of (at maximum) a 140-character box, because I think those limitations are pretty self-explanatory. Instead, this is about what happens when we confuse what we want with what we think we're owed.

Over the course of the 2010-11 season, I have consistently heard the following two phrases more than any others from Temple coach Fran Dunphy:

  1. Well, I appreciate the question...
  2. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I don't know where this program would be without Lavoy Allen. 

With Lavoy's last game in a Temple jersey now played, we're somewhere around seven months from figuring out the latter. In the meantime, there are those observers who feel no need to wait. 

Because I lack both the desire and the know-how to find all those uncomplimentary tweets, I'll sum up their general message. "Lavoy Allen let Temple down on Saturday. He let his coach down. He let his teammates down. He let his fans down. Lavoy Allen is no leader. In a word, Lavoy Allen...is soft."

Line by line, tweets poured in ripping him for his 12-point, 11-rebound performance. And, while "soft" was the word most often used, you can search your imagination for synonymous expletives, because they were typed, too.

The question I had then, and still have now, is simple—"Why?"

Lavoy Allen has hid under no rock. He's played in a total of 135 games in his college career, giving you 135 chances to get to know him as a basketball player. While he has indeed improved every year, he has also retained some of the limitations he possessed when he came to campus as a freshman. This can hardly be considered an anomaly in college athletics. In truth, it can hardly be considered an anomaly in professional athletics.

Here's a fair question: have I ever criticized Lavoy Allen? Yes. I've done it on multiple occasions for multiple reasons. I encourage you to click the "Temple University" tag and start digging for evidence. I've wanted him to put on weight. I've questioned his rationale for shooting from range. I, like those people on Twitter, have wanted to see a killer instinct. I've spent 135 games over the course of four years looking at a 6'10 monster and wanting him to act the frigging part.

When Michael Eric was lost to a season ending knee-injury more than a month ago, I finally got that Lavoy Allen. I got a Lavoy Allen who finished his college career with seven straight double-doubles. I got a Lavoy Allen who treated opposing defenders like a joke, and offensive rebounders like a waste of time. I got a Lavoy Allen that asserted his will not just because he could, but because his team needed him. There has always been potential in Lavoy Allen, and there remains still more untapped.

And that's the real issue: we have been left wanting so much more.

We've watched watched Lavoy Allen. We know what talent that lies beneath his friendly and, yes, even passive exterior. And, it is because that talent has been there the whole time that we wanted it all the time. Now, we won't even get it some of the time.

From here on out, I'll stop using "we" and switch to just "me." When he was here, I wanted more from Lavoy Allen. I wanted him to be great. I wanted him to reach his potential. I wanted him to dominate. I wanted him to grip the basketball, take two massive steps and assault the rim like it owed him money. But, when I'm really honest about it, more than anything else, it's that I wanted to watch him do it. I wanted to see him become the player I wanted him to be, and I wanted him to become that player when and where I could see it. I think that goes for all of us.

Sports fans are selfish by nature. We want people we've never met to justify our arbitrary decision to support them on our own terms.

Though I don't know Lavoy Allen, I've see him around quite a bit. I've passed him on the street. I've shook his hand. I've wished him "good luck." I've told him he "had a good game." I've begged him to "beat the Hawk." Hell, I've even participated in a snowball fight with him. But I don't know Lavoy Allen. And he doesn't know me. A great many of you don't know him either. And, more than likely, he doesn't know you.

Still, by the time you're done reading, I will have devoted more than 1,000 words to him. And 48 hours before I embarked on this endeavor, enough of you devoted at least 140 characters to expressing opinions of your own. 

After 135 games spread out over four years, watching Lavoy Allen play basketball has taught me a lesson. We don't always get what we want, and we aren't owed it either. Lavoy Allen is the textbook definition of judging an athlete not for who he is, but for who we want him to be, and then confusing the two. We wanted him to be a killer; it was just never his style. Of course I wished for more both for and from Lavoy, but I feel damn privileged to have gotten what I received. I've seen four NCAA tournament appearances, three Atlantic 10 titles, two columns with double digits and one brand new all-time leading rebounder in my program's history. We just all fell into the trap of confusing who he was for what we wanted.

So, who was he? Lavoy Allen was one of the greatest Owls in a rich Temple history, and he could have been even better. Somewhere between his 1,421 points, 1,147 rebounds and 4,352 minutes played, that point got lost. I used to want more from him; now, I just want more of him. 

Maybe I didn't need 1,188 words to sum up how I feel about Lavoy Allen; because, now that it's over, I don't even need 140 characters—just 47 will do. "Thank you, Lavoy, and good luck. I'll miss you."

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dougie Hamilton scored 1:09 into overtime, Chad Johnson stopped 27 shots and the Calgary Flames beat the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 on Thursday night.

Mark Giordano scored for the Flames in a chippy game filled with big hits and multiple fights.

Hamilton capped a fast-paced overtime by deking Arizona's Mike Smith with a forehand before flipping in a backhander. Calgary has won five straight and eight of 11 (8-2-1).

Max Domi scored before leaving with an upper-body injury and Smith stopped 33 shots for the Coyotes, who have lost six straight and 11 of 14 (3-7-4).

Arizona captain Shane Doan became Arizona's all-time assist leader and is the fifth player in NHL history to own his team's records for games played, goals, assists, points, game-winning goals and power-play goals (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins roll over Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby got his 18th goal and added an assist to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Florida Panthers 5-1 on Thursday night.

Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, Matt Cullen and Carl Hagelin also scored for Pittsburgh. Matt Murray made 28 saves.

The Penguins have won four straight and five of their past six.

Jaromir Jagr scored his 755th career goal, and Roberto Luongo stopped 25 shots for the Panthers. Luongo allowed three goals on Pittsburgh's first five shots.

Panthers coach Tom Rowe, who replaced Gerard Gallant on Nov. 28, made his home debut. The Panthers have lost five of six under Rowe, but managed a point in three of those losses (see full recap).

Price loses cool as Habs beat Devils
MONTREAL -- Carey Price lost his temper after being bumped twice in his crease and made 19 saves to help the Montreal Canadiens beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Thursday night.

Torrey Mitchell scored twice and Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen and Max Pacioretty also had goals for the Canadiens in their return from a five-game trip.

Adam Henrique scored a goal and set up one by Taylor Hall for New Jersey, which ended a two-game winning streak.

Montreal had a season-high 49 shots on Cory Schneider.

A wild first period included three goals, four goal reviews and Price's meltdown (see full recap).