CHICAGO Lavoy Allen had just walked out of the shower. He wanted to get to his locker on the other side of the room and get ready to catch the team bus. But between the crush of media surrounding Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes, and a long folding table in the center of the room filled with travel bags, the rookie center couldnt get there.
So using the logic that the shortest distance between two points was a straight line, Allen picked up one end of the table and moved it out of the way. Just like that a path had been cleared.
In a sense thats Allens philosophy on the basketball court, too. If something is in the way, move it. Or if something is there for the taking, go get it.
Thats exactly how Allen, the rookie second-round draft pick from Temple, played against the bruising Bulls frontcourt in Tuesday nights Game 2 victory at the United Center (see game recap). With 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting and a game-high nine rebounds in 26 minutes, Allen was the unsung hero for the Sixers as they evened the series at a game apiece with the 109-92 victory.
Rookie playing like that, its great, veteran Elton Brand said. He stepped up and Im proud of him because all year he worked so hard.
Allen started the series opener and logged nearly 20 minutes. However, the Bulls dominated the boards and coach Doug Collins felt as though Allens strength and rebounding ability would work better with the second unit, so he put Spencer Hawes back into the starting five.
So even though he came off the bench in Game 2, Allen played 26 minutes and found himself mixing it up with Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and the rest of the Bulls big frontline.
Lavoy is big and strong and hes a better rebounder than Spencer, Collins said. We needed his presence with the second unit, especially when we brought in Lou Williams and Thad Young.
Allen also took advantage of a few open looks from 18 to 20 feet, too. Interestingly, the midrange jumper was a shot Allen never would have taken last year at Temple, where he finished as the schools all-time leading rebounder. Not only was Allen used mostly as a low-post player, he didnt have the confidence in his outside game.
But a year later in the NBA playoffs, Allen took that midrange shot as if it were always a part of his game.
If I would miss a shot I second-guessed myself on the next shot, but here they told me to take the first available shot because with the 24-second shot clock you never know when youre going to get a better shot, Allen explained.
Said Brand: He mixes and matches. He can play physical and he can step out and hit the jump shot.
Still, for the series against the Bulls, Collins and the Sixers need Allen to grab rebounds and to mix it up with Noah and Boozer. Without Derrick Rose to contend with in the backcourt, Allen could stay down low to battle for rebounds and help the Sixers transition game.
Strangely, it worked out. After Noah and Boozer scored 23 combined points with nine rebounds in the first half, Boozer grabbed just one rebound during the second half and the Bulls shot 1 for 7 in the paint during the third quarter.
After the first game, one of the things the coaches pointed out to us was how physical their bigs were and how physical we were, Allen said. When we get out there and they try to set a screen, hold them up and always have your body inside themthats one of the things the coaches stressed.
I just went out there and did what I was supposed to do.
And to think, when he was drafted with the 50th overall pick, there were a few folks who were unsure if Allen would even make the team. Given that he spent the first handful of games inactive, some wondered if hed ever get a chance to see significant game action.
But because of the nature of the condensed schedule and injuries to Hawes and fellow rookie Nik Vucevic, Allen started in 15 of his 41 regular-season appearances and grabbed nearly six rebounds per game in those starts.
Its been up and down. Ive had some good games and I had some tough ones, Allen said of his rookie season. Sometimes I start and sometimes I dont play at all. But the one thing they told me at the beginning of the year was to always be ready. The first couple of games I was wearing a suit, but they told me to be ready and thats what I did.
By staying ready, the second-round pick has been a cog in the Sixers rotation and just may have saved his best performance of the season for the playoffs.
We knew hed help us this year and he is, Brand said.
E-mail John R. Finger at email@example.com