McDonald’s taught Ray Allen an early lesson about conditioning that helped shape an 18-year career

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Ray Allen just opted in for an 18th NBA season at age 38. That decision was certainly made easier by the fact his 17th season ended with a championship ring, one the Miami Heat would not have won without him. Plus he is still effective — he averaged 10.9 points a game and shot 41.9 percent from three last season.

Which is pretty ridiculous when you think about it. Playing at that level, keeping your body in tune like that for 1,378 games (regular season and playoffs) and deciding at least 82 more at his age was a good idea.

Few players take their health as seriously as Allen (who is in Washington D.C. this week speaking to congress on behalf of the health of his six-year-old son with diabetes).

Allen can thank a Hartford area McDonald’s for teaching him that lesson early on (and he didn’t have to go the full Morgan Spurlock to learn his lesson).

“There was a time in college where before practice I went to McDonald’s and I had a quarter pounder with cheese, I went to practice that day and I just remembered I felt so sluggish out there,” Allen told ProBasketballTalk. “And I was looking around thinking ‘Coach is just working us to hard’ because I just feel so tired. I ask the guys around me, ‘Do you guys feel tired? Because I just can’t move around like I want to” and everybody is like ‘no, I’m good.’

“And I was thinking about it all practice — wow I had a cheeseburger before I came to practice, I can’t do that anymore. From that day forward I started thinking about everything I put in my body that was preventing me from performing. I started realizing it is connected.

“So when I got to the NBA I had a pregame routine, a game day routine. How I worked out affected how I ate.”

Allen’s pregame routine and ritual are the most precise and detailed in the league (Dirk Nowitizki comes close). Allen is nearly OCD about his routine — he doesn’t like it changed. He wants that structure in his life.

He said he has tried to preach that to other players over the years — the usual pattern for players entering the league is that they eat pretty badly for a few years, but as their bodies start to age a little they realize what Allen figured out in college.

“That’s the adjustment,” Allen said. “I think so many people fall out of favor when they get to the NBA because you don’t have a structure. It’s important for a lot of guys, when they go through college, you learn a structure, and you got to carry that structure over (to the NBA). But some guys they get to the NBA, or any professional sport at all, and they say ‘I don’t have a coach breathing down my neck all day I can do what I want eating wise, I can manage my own time and do what I want and stay up late.’ Some guys almost rebel.

“But you almost have to go in the other direction. You have to take this as an opportunity to say, ‘I’m in the NBA and I want to make a lot of money, if I want to be around for a long time, I have to make sure I prioritize this job… The money is really a non-issue; it’s really about being effective and successful at your job. The money will come along with it.”

Allen is more focused now on the health of his son, and that’s why he is in Washington, to lobby for the Special Diabetes Program – legislation focused on multi-year funding of Type 1 diabetes research that congress must renew every couple years.

“My son Walker, he is six years old and he has Type 1 diabetes,” Allen said. “He’s a delegate, part of the children’s congress. Every two years now the Children’s Congress comes to Washington to make sure we continue to hold our elected politicians to task for continued funding, especially for diabetes programs.”

Allen knows this is one place his celebrity and status can help his child and others like him — Allen and his wife have done a number of public service announcements with Walker, and they are personally involved in the cause. Which includes going to Washington every couple years to talk to congress about the realities of the disease and the need for research.

“I just tell them a little bit about who we are as a family and who Walker is,” Allen said. “Basically giving a human side to the story — diabetes is not just a word or a disease, there are people who fight every day to keep their children alive. There are families all across America like that.

“I’m just a dad just trying to make sure his son gets the proper care that he deserves and hope that one day they find a cure. It just so happens that I do have a high profile job and I walk into a room of high profile people and let them know this what I deal with regardless of what I’m dealing with professionally.”

He’s going to get to deal with those professional issues one more year. Thanks to the care he has taken of his body. And with a little nudge from McDonald’s.

LeBron James is a force nature, scores 46, wills Cavaliers to win forcing Game 7

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What more can be said about the brilliance of LeBron James?

We can point to his 46 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists Friday night in a win-or-go-fishing elimination game. We can point to how he lifted the team up when Kevin Love went down after a blow to the head (more on that later). We could talk about how this is his seventh 40+ point game of the playoffs, the last guy to do that since Michael Jordan in 1989 (when Jordan was 25 and had yet to win a title).

Or, we can just show you his back-to-back dagger threes in the fourth quarter over Jayson Tatum.

That is art on a basketball court.

LeBron got a little help Friday night at home, and with that the Cavaliers won Game 6 109-99, forcing a Game 7 back in Boston on Sunday night.

“It feels good just to play for another game, and like I’ve always said ‘Game 7’ is the best two words in sports,” LeBron said. “And for us to be on the road in a hostile environment where we have had no success up to this point, we should relish the opportunity and have fun with it.”

LeBron was nothing short of brilliant (remember 10-12 years ago people were trying to say he was afraid of the big moment, damn that sounds silly now). He is historically brilliant in Game 7s, but he can’t do it alone.

George Hill, the second best shot creator on the team, had 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Jeff Green had 14 off the bench, and Larry Nance Jr. had a timely 10 points and 7 rebounds.

Nance’s play was crucial because Kevin Love went down 5 minutes into the game after banging heads with Jayson Tatum while setting a screen.

Love’s was being checked for a concussion and his status for Game 7 is not known. (If he does have a concussion, it’s unlikely he clears the league protocol in time to play in two days.)

Despite LeBron and all of it, the Celtics had their chances in this one.

Boston got off to a fast start because Jaylen Brown had 15 first-quarter points and the Celtics shot 61 percent as a team, none of which seemed sustainable but it got them out to a 25-20 lead after one. Then the Cavaliers came on in the second with a 20-4 run behind LeBron, and once they had the lead the Cavaliers never let it go.

Boston will look back on not grabbing rebounds — Cleveland grabbed the offensive rebound on 36.6 percent of their missed shots, a very high percentage — and the fact the Celtics missed nine free throws and think things could have been different.

Boston is going home, where they are 10-0 these playoffs and for some reason inexplicable even to Brad Stevens, they play much better. The Celtics have a great defense, smart players, and a real chance.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have LeBron James. That may be enough.

“We have one more game to be able to compete for a championship, what more can you ask for?” LeBron said.

Kevin Love being evaluated for concussion, out for second half

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It happened just five minutes into the game — Cleveland’s Kevin Love and Boston’s Jayson Tatum banged heads.

Love was in the midpost and part of his job was to set a screen for George Hill, who was racing out to the arc. In doing so, Love and Tatum banged heads and it wasn’t pretty.

Love spent a few minutes on the ground, went straight to the locker room, and has not returned to the game.

Tatum did not leave the game.

There still is no official word on if Love has a concussion. If he does, he will go into the league’s mandated concussion protocol — which means to be cleared he has to be symptom free through a series of physical tests — and it would be a challenge for him to be back for a Game 7, if there is one.

And their likely will be one. After struggling in the rest of the first quarter without Love, the Cavaliers have gotten solid performances out of Hill, Jeff Green, and of course, LeBron James has been brilliant. The Cavaliers have a comfortable 15-point lead late in the third quarter.

NBA Finals schedule drops, Game 1 Thursday, May 31

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We don’t know where the NBA Finals will be played, but we know when.

Next Thursday the eyes of the NBA world could be focused on Oakland or Houston, and the following Wednesday that may shift to Boston or Cleveland. All four of those teams still have a chance to make the NBA Finals.

What we know is the dates for the games. Here is the schedule:

Game 1, Thursday, May 31, at 9 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 2, Sunday, June 3, at 8 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 3, Wednesday, June 6, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 4, Friday, June 8, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 5, Monday, June 11, at 9 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 6, Thursday, June 14, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 7, Sunday, June 17, at 8 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Games 5, 6, and 7 are if necessary. All games will be broadcast on ABC.

There were no surprises here. The date of the start of the NBA Finals has been set since before the season started (it always is, to help broadcast partners and international media plan). The game pattern follows the same as last year, when the NBA changed it to make sure there was at least one day off in addition to travel days when the venue switches cities.

James Harden on shooting struggles: ‘Who cares?’

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A couple of years ago, could anyone have imagined James Harden not only saying he’s willing to give up scoring to do the little things to win but then actually doing it?

That’s exactly what Harden has done through five games against Golden State, and it’s why his Houston team is up 3-2.

Harden has struggled with his shot the past two games: He has shot 16-of-47 overall the past two games (34 percent) but also 3-of-23 from three. Yet he has done a good job setting up others. In Game 5, in particular, he did a better job getting into the middle of the paint, opening up passing lanes when the defense collapsed on him. He’s also worked hard on the defensive end, played Stephen Curry reasonably well, and been a solid team defender.

With his team one game from the Finals, he’s not concerned about his shot.

“Who cares?” Harden said to reporters after the game. “I’m just missing shots. But we’re winning, and I’m trying to compete on the defensive end and do other things to help my team win. But if we’ve got a guy like Eric Gordon making shots and being aggressive, who cares?”

A lot of players give that idea lip service, but in recent games Harden has backed it up.

“It’s just the shots [are] not falling, and a lot of it has to do with how hard everybody is playing,” Rockets’ coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Probably his legs aren’t the freshest things in the world. But he’s invaluable to the defense and offense.”

The Rockets are going to need more scoring from Harden to close this series out — Chris Paul is out for Game 6 with a strained hamstring, and it’s unlikely he plays if there is a Game 7. Eric Gordon will get the start and has lit it up the past couple of games (he led the Rockets with 24 points in Game 5), but more scoring and shot creation will fall on the Harden’s shoulders.

If the Rockets are going to close this series out, Harden is going to have to look every bit the presumptive MVP. The little things are great, but Houston needs him to get buckets now.