By ROBERT LEE
Journal Sports Writer
BOSTON - A year ago today, Tony Allen didn't know what his basketball future held.
And because of that, he wasn't sure what direction his life was headed.
"A year ago at this time I was down. I was sad," Allen said. "I was seeing guys at practice a lot quicker than me, a lot faster than me."
When everyone is quicker and faster than you on an NBA basketball team, that usually means your time in the league is coming to an end.
But Allen didn't let that happen.
He worked harder than he ever had to work before to turn everything around.
A freak accident nearly ended his career.
Allen injured his left knee on Jan. 10 of the 2006-07 season in the final minutes of a Celtics loss to the Indiana Pacers as he landed awkwardly after an uncontested slam dunk after the whistle was blown, tearing both the ACL and MCL, which required season-ending knee surgery.
When his career nearly ended, Allen was playing the best basketball of his NBA career - averaging 18.9 points per game during a 14-game stretch.
Allen had successful surgery, and then went to work with the Celtics strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo, who he gives a lot of credit to for his career turnaround by helping him strengthen his knee.
But Allen had initially lost a lot of the explosiveness and quickness that the Celtics were looking for from him when they drafted him with the 25th overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft after the knee injury.
Now, Allen said, his knee is almost 100 percent healed.
"I'd say it's 82 percent," Allen said.
Allen has provided a big spark off the bench this season for the Celtics. He is averaging 11.3 points per game. He led the Celtics with 23 points and five rebounds against Detroit on Sunday.
"Me personally, that's what I expect out of Tony," Boston guard Rajon Rondo said. "I think that he's going to be a big contributor towards our success."
Along with Doo, he also credits Paul Pierce and Ray Allen for making him better in practice.
"I'm out there every day trying to stick Paul Pierce who is one of the best scorers in the league and Ray Allen who is one of the best shooters," Allen said. "I'm just switching up with those two in practice every day and that's my goal, to just stay on point...I defend Paul some days and Ray some days so if I can match up with those guys on good days in practice I know I can do it with any of these guys in the league."
Boston coach Doc Rivers said that he is even more impressed with what Allen has done defensively this season than what he's done offensively.
"I still believe eventually he could be our best defensive player," Rivers said.