NEWPORT, R.I. — Boston Celtics guard Ray Allen may have even more space to get off his textbook jumper.
The performance could have been a personal shooting video except that it happened in the spotlight of the last spring’s NBA Finals: Allen twists and turns away from defenders, coming off screens on both sides of the floor, before hitting a record eight 3-pointers against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 2.
Now, the team’s sharpshooter will likely have more opportunities with the Big Diesel and Glen “Big Baby” Davis — two very large men — setting picks to free up one of the league’s most prolific shooters.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers knows that 7-foot-1, 325-pound Shaquille O’Neal and the 6-9, 295-pound Davis provide a sizable addition to help the player that trigger’s Boston’s outside game.
“We’re way bigger,” Allen said Thursday at the team’s training camp at Salve Regina University, nestled among Newport’s famed mansions.
Like those mansions that line the streets where the Celtics are preparing to defend their Eastern Conference title, Boston’s front line looms large. It’s something that should benefit a player like Allen, who can carry Boston’s offense for stretches.
“The problem is can we can’t see through those screens,” Rivers said, joking. “They’ll be great. The great thing about setting screens for Shaq alone is every team in the NBA that has played against Shaq: You’re taught never to get off his side. Everybody tries to trap Ray off the screen. If you come off Shaq’s body, you’re releasing Shaq to the rim.”
Otherwise, it’ll take a player bit longer to get around Shaq’s frame to double-team Allen.
But Allen, who has connected on nearly 2,500 shots from beyond the arc in his career, knows the team has other big men that can free up space for his seemingly flawless jumper.
“I don’t think it’s just Baby and Shaq,” he said. “There’s Jermaine (O’Neal) out there. Kevin (Garnett). The bigs. We have pretty good depth in our front court.”
Boston also signed Jermaine O’Neal during the offseason for added depth when center Kendrick Perkins was lost in Game 6 of the finals with a knee injury. It’s expected to sideline Perkins until January.
But it’s the larger O’Neal — Shaquille that is — that could be a key in opening up room for Allen’s jumper late in games. It’s something he’s done for Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
“I love it. I’ve always had great shooters with me. I get them open. They get me open,” Shaq said. “Teams have to pick their poison. We can have Ray come off one side and Paul (Pierce) come off the other side. That’s kind of a luxury.”
Shaq knows that having too many scorers on the floor can beat a team, especially after the Celtics upset his then-Cavaliers teammates in six games in the second round last season.
Allen, a career 41-percent shooter on 3s in the postseason, could have gone elsewhere, but resigned — along with Pierce — with Boston during the offseason. Now he’s hoping to find room in a place he’s been comfortable.
“I want to look up and have guys I can count on every single night. I have a chance to be a part of something special,” he said. “You just don’t give up a great situation. You have great teammates. Selfishly, I could have gone somewhere and put up a lot more shots and possibly had a great chance of making a couple of all-star teams.”