MEMPHIS — Tony Allen remembers the losing. There was plenty of it, back in 2006-07, when the Grizzlies guard played with the Celtics. Back then, a rebuilding Boston squad piled up 58 defeats, including a franchise-record 18 in a row, and there were calls for coach Doc Rivers’s firing.
But in terms of top-notch talent, that squad had little more than Paul Pierce, who averaged 25 points per game, and it didn’t seem like the cavalry was coming anytime soon.
“With me and Paul, we always had the attitude that, ‘Hey, it’s just temporary, nothing bad is going to last forever,’ ” Allen said Monday night before the Grizzlies’ 95-88 win over the Celtics at the FedExForum, which dropped Boston to 0-4.
“Sure enough, it didn’t last too long because the next year, we won the championship,” Allen added with a laugh.
Indeed, the 2007-08 Celtics won 66 games and the 17th title in franchise history.
Of course, that team was a bit different than the version in the season before, as perennial All-Stars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen — cavalry, indeed — had joined up in the offseason.
This season’s Celtics are in a somewhat similar situation as the team in 2006-07: they boast little worth writing home about and are playing for the future, i.e rebuilding.
The main difference is that these Celtics’ best player isn’t playing, as All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo is sidelined while recovering from knee surgery.
But Tony Allen, who played for six seasons with the Celtics, said he has faith that Rondo can be the leader that the Celtics need with Garnett, Ray Allen, and Pierce all gone.
“I saw Rondo go from a real quiet guy to actually a star,” said Allen, who played four seasons with Rondo. “I always saw the potential in him. I always saw the quickness. I always saw the speed, the court vision he had. I always knew that had he gotten the opportunity, he was going to be able to show the world and he did that.”
Allen also suffered the same injury as Rondo: a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament. Allen’s injury occurred in 2007 and he has made a full recovery.
“All I can say to him is, take [your] time coming back,” Allen said.
Allen was a thorn in the side of his former team Monday night, with 8 points and a game-high four steals.
“He’s a heck of a player,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “I knew that coming in. I’m even more impressed leaving.”
Kris Humphries played in the Celtics’ regular-season opener, a game that his teammate and fellow forward Jared Sullinger sat out while serving a one-game suspension.
Humphries recorded 8 points and 9 rebounds in that opener in Toronto, but he didn’t play in the next two games when Sullinger returned — or again Monday night.
“With Vitor’s emergence, the minutes are less elsewhere,” Stevenssaid of the front line, noting the strong play of rookie center Vitor Faverani.
“And right now, in the last two games, it’s been Kris,” Stevens said before Monday night’s game, adding that he still believes Humphries will “play a meaningful role for us down the road.”
The Celtics are facing a logjam at power forward, with Humphries, Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Brandon Bass and, occasionally, Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace.
“The bottom line is, there are no easy answers,” Stevens said.
The same could be said of the point guard situation the Celtics face with Rondo out. Avery Bradley has handled the bulk of the point guard duties, with Jordan Crawford and Wallace also pitching in. So far, they have all looked so-so.
“The silver lining is, one of the best ones in the league is sitting right there next to us in a nice suit,” Stevens said about Rondo.
In terms of a point guard, Stevens also mentioned another possibility.
“The person that I’m probably thinking the most about how we get him more involved right now is Phil [Pressey],” Stevens said.
The 5-foot-11-inch Pressey is an undrafted free agent rookie out of Missouri, but he’s also the only healthy true point guard on the roster.
During the preseason, the Celtics often looked their best when Pressey was on the court.
“He’s probably the most natural guy at that position as far as getting others involved,” Stevens said.
Wallace left the game in the second half with a right knee bruise. His status is unclear for the Celtics’ game Wednesday against the Jazz at TD Garden.Baxter Holmes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BaxterHolmes.