Ray Allen's Ankle Injury Will Translate into Disappointing 1st Season with Heat

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistOctober 24, 2012

Oct 18, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat shooting guard Ray Allen (34) reacts during the first half against the Detroit Pistons at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Ray Allen was never meant to be a savior. For a team coming off a championship season, it's pretty apparent that there's not much in need of saving.

All the same, the Miami Heat signed the 37-year-old for a reason, and it wasn't just to make the Boston Celtics jealous.

Make no mistake about it. Allen will never be the prolific scorer he once was. Even if he had it in him—and he doesn't—the Heat need his services even less than the Celtics did. That's not to say those services are entirely superfluous, only that it's not all that difficult to replace them.

A limited role makes sense these days, and Allen could remain a deadly assassin in that role, hitting the shots that matter even if he isn't scoring 20 points a game.

But there's a difference between a veteran shining in a niche capacity and one who is struggling to stay on the floor.

Though Ray doesn't have much interest in slashing and exploding to the basket, he still has to run. In fact, few in this game have been as effective at moving off the ball and coming off screens all for the sake of a little daylight.

An ongoing ankle problem could make Allen's signature play difficult, to say nothing of how it impacts his defense.

ESPN's Michael Wallace shares the bad news:

With a week left before facing his former team in the Miami Heat's season opener, guard Ray Allen said his surgically repaired ankle isn't completely healed and could require treatment well into the season.

"I still deal with soreness in my ankle that I work through every day," Allen said after the Heat's practice Monday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Of course, it's that "treatment well into the season" part that has to have Heat fans concerned.

Allen was bothered by bone spurs in his ankle well into his 2011-12 playoff run with the Celtics, a condition that was worsened by his attempts to return to action. He had surgery in June, though, so the presumption has been that he'd show up good as new, at least at some point.

That point will have to wait.

The bad news for Allen isn't necessarily disastrous news for the Heat.

The shooting guard dealt with ankle pain for much of last season, but he still managed to play 34 minutes a game and average an efficient 14.2 points per game in the process. There's no question he can remain productive while dealing with some soreness.

Moreover, Miami isn't exactly desperate for perimeter shooting. Though its premier talent fares better inside the arc, this club includes some role players with a penchant for draining open threes. Shane Battier, Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers all proved as much last season, and Rashard Lewis joining the fray certainly won't hurt.

Early on, we might see head coach Erik Spoelstra use Allen more sparingly, perhaps on the order of 15 or 20 minutes a game. If the ankle improves, that playing time could grow closer to 30 minutes, especially if other veterans (e.g. Miller, Battier or even Dwyane Wade) run into injury issues of their own.

If you're expecting Allen to reprise his performance from last season, though, don't hold your breath.

He might be able to fight through the pain, but he'll be doing so with a new team this time around. 

And if he's bummed about the Celtics using him as a "decoy," it's hard to see him meshing brilliantly with a roster boasting three top-tier scorers in their prime years (along with a more-than-capable supporting cast).

Add a nagging ankle to the mix, and Allen's opportunistic defection may not turn out pleasantly.

Fortunately for the Heat, they are the one team that can handle the disappointment.