Miami Heat: Is Ray Allen Battling Ankle Injury Again?

Joshua J Vannuccini@@jjvannucciniSenior Analyst IIIJanuary 19, 2013

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 02: Ray Allen #34 of the Miami Heat shoots a free throw during a game against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Arena on January 2, 2013 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

When the season began, there was much controversy surrounding Ray Allen's arrival in Miami. Boston fans called him a traitor, while South Beach welcomed the once-hated assassin with open arms. Allen's first two months with the team went exactly as expected, becoming their primary three-point threat and late-game weapon.

With clutch threes against Denver, Cleveland and San Antonio, his ability to come off the bench and knock down big shots was essential and storied around the league. Recently however, this has not been the case. 

Through October and November, Allen was converting an insane 57.9 percent of this long-range shots. While one wouldn't necessarily expect that trend to continue all season, it has been done in the past. Kyle Korver, now with the Atlanta Hawks, finished the 2009-10 season with Utah on an NBA-record 53.6 percent from three. 

Comparatively, most would declare Allen the supreme shooter over Korver, so it isn't far-fetched to once expect him to accomplish a similar accolade with Miami. Yet 37-year old seems to be either in a shooting slump, or battling an untold injury. 

As of today he is shooting a  stellar percentage of 43.2 from deep, which is tied for fifth-best in the league with Jose Calderon of Toronto, and Mike Dunleavy of Milwaukee. For any other player, questioning whether or not such a statistic is not good enough would be blasphemous. Although based on Allen's incredible start to the year, it would be folly to believe that merely a streak to begin the season, especially considering his place as the all-time leader in three-point makes and attempts.

In the last two months, Allen is shooting just 38.5 percent beyond the arc. If that were his average today, it would rank alongside inferior shooters like Carlos Delfino, Kyle Lowry, Brandon Knight and Paul George. While the aforementioned are solid shooters, they are not the company with which Allen should be involved. 

His minutes have dropped slightly (28.7 to 26.4), yet that does not account for the steep decline. It can also be noted that his place or position in the rotation has not changed, so it makes pinpointing this issue difficult. It is therefore only logical to attribute his struggles to an unknown, or unreleased, injury.

Allen needed ankle surgery toward the end of last season with Boston, to remove bone spurs in both legs. He missed the final nine games of the Celtics' season, though was able to return for the playoffs. Allen was only able to convert on 30.4 percent of three-point attempts during the postseason, which is somewhat similar to his recent percentage. 

Obviously playing alongside LeBron James is allowing Allen to shoot better than alongside Rajon Rondo, but it still points to potential injury. It was reported by Ira Winderman before the Heat's year began that said injury could potentially "be ongoing throughout the season, something he will have to manage." 

If Allen's recent struggles are directly relative to his ankles, it could spell big problems for the Heat going forward. With Shane Battier battling a strained hamstring, and shooting a disastrous 11.5 percent in January, Miami will be without their two biggest long-range threats.

This not only impacts their ability to shoot opponents out of the gym, but their potential to close out games. Only time will tell if Allen is able to return to form, or possibly revisit surgery. The All-Star break is less than a month away, and should give Allen the chance to rest and rehabilitate.