WALTHAM - Ray Allen could return to the starting lineup against San Antonio Wednesday night. However, the Celtics have compiled a five-game winning streak while Allen recovers from an ankle injury, and coach Doc Rivers said the coaching staff has considered bringing Allen off the bench.
“We think about stuff like that all the time, no doubt,’’ Rivers said after Tuesday’s practice. “That, and other guys. We’ll see how it goes. Maybe it will be somebody else, we’ll see.’’
The Celtics have found a defensive groove with the Avery Bradley-Rajon Rondo backcourt combination, which short-circuited the Miami Heat attack in a 91-72 victory Sunday. But Allen has started every game he has been available since joining the Celtics in the 2007-08 season and has only played as a reserve four times in his pro career, the last time in 2002-03 with Milwaukee.
Rasheed Wallace used to refer to Rivers as a “mad scientist’’ when he considered experimenting with lineups. This year, though, such hypothetical variations should be termed normal. The Celtics’ likely leader in games played will be Bradley, and their blocked shots leader could be Greg Stiemsma.
Rivers acknowledged Allen might not start. “We’ve talked about it,’’ Rivers said.
Allen said he would accept a bench role.
“Whatever we need to do as a team,’’ Allen said. “I think the effort that I’ve seen over the last week and a half, two weeks, is great. Whatever combinations we work out there, we’re all good enough, we’re all professional enough, to understand it. We know our plays. We’re at a point in the season where everybody knows who each other is. So, remembering plays and positions is second nature now for all of us.’’
Allen was injured early in the Celtics’ eight-game road trip last month, but continued to play until a March 23 visit to Philadelphia (99-86 loss).
“For me, personally, I felt good to be back out here,’’ Allen said after practice. “My legs felt great. I had a shot in the ankle the other day and had all day to let it manuever through my body. Coming in today I felt like I had two new wheels.’’
Allen participated in pregame shootarounds in Minnesota last week and at home Sunday.
“Going through shootaround kind of favoring it, holding it - different feelings, wincing,’’ Allen recalled. “I didn’t deal with that at all today.’’
Allen, who has missed 11 games, his longest absence since the 2006-07 season, when he underwent ankle surgery, clearly was feeling rejuvenated.
“It’s like my body needs to hit the highway,’’ Allen said. “It needs to rev up. So, I’ll be glad to be back out there.’’
Allen can be effective in the half-court offense because of his 3-point shooting. But the Celtics have developed a hybrid identity as a transition team because of the pressuring ability of Bradley and Rondo, plus the mobility and jump-shooting of Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett.
“I bet I heard 10 times before the Miami game that I bet you guys are going to control the pace, walk the ball up the floor,’’ Rivers said. “I just think the exact opposite of that. When you have Kevin and Brandon on the floor and you run, and they run to space, bigs have to match up to them. And there’s lots of space.
“And I thought we’re starting to recognize that and do it. And we have to continue to do it. Getting easy baskets is hard in our league, so when you can get them you have to get them.’’
It was the Celtics first full practice since February.
Mickael Pietrus, recovering from a March 23 concussion, attended practice but is not expected to return soon. “He looked great, it was the first time I’ve seen him without sunglasses and a hoodie,’’ Rivers said. “He just looked better, he looked alert. He walked in and yelled, ‘I feel better.’ Before, he didn’t look so good, today he looked so much better. I’m hoping it keeps going that way. They haven’t started preliminaries yet. They don’t think he’s anywhere close [to being tested]. He was here for the whole practice. Guys get pretty loud in practice, so I think he had to get out of here for a little bit.’’ . . . Garnett worked out with Ryan Hollins for more than a half-hour after practice.Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.