Sixers coach Doug Collins often says that a reserve is just one turned ankle away from becoming a big part of the team.
Lavoy Allen is his perfect case in point.
Taken with the 50th overall pick in last June's draft out of Temple, many wondered if the 6-9 forward was anything more than a courtesy pick. He played his high school ball at nearby Pennsbury and was coached at Temple by Fran Dunphy, a good friend of Collins.
But right away Collins talked glowingly of Allen, impressed by his strength, shooting ability, defense and rebounding. The only knock on Allen was that he appeared as if his engine wasn't as revved up as it could be at times.
"Lavoy's good. He's big and strong and can shoot the ball and he's got a real good feel for the game," Collins said. He also alluded to the knock on Allen's motor. "I'll get his motor going," the coach promised. And he has.
Allen played about 28 minutes Friday night, a season-high, in the Sixers 89-72 thumping of the lowly Charlotte Bobcats, posting 8 points and 7 rebounds. He has now played double-figure minutes in each of the last three games as centers Spencer Hawes (strained Achilles') and Nikola Vucevic (strained quad) continue to miss games.
More than his boxscore totals though, Allen is doing exactly what Collins wants from each member of his team - being very active. Numerous times over the past few games Allen has kept balls alive on the offensive end by tipping the ball to teammates after a missed shot. He is getting his hands into passing lanes on the defensive end, often causing turnovers and getting the team out running.
A true sign of how far any rookie has come is in the eyes of his teammates. Gaining trust doesn't come all that easy in the NBA, but just 19 games in, Allen has certainly garnered it from his teammates and, more importantly Collins.
Hawes appears to be on the verge of returning, perhaps maybe as early as Monday's home game against Orlando. Vucevic still seems to be quite a bit away. After warming up before tonight's game, he was limping noticably.
As devastating as those two injuries could have been for the Sixers, Allen has certainly made their absences a little easier to handle.
Lou Williams led the Sixers (13-6) with 17 points, while Jrue Holiday had 15 and Jodie Meeks 14. Thaddeus Young also scored 10. The Sixers will host the Detroit Pistons tonight.