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NBA NOTESPlaying on a contender means the networks won't let you alone, which in turn guarantees you'll be playing on Christmas or Thanksgiving - maybe even both, as the Orlando Magic discovered when this season's schedule was announced.

The Celtics have served that call for the last three years, and for the second straight season they will kick off a long road trip with a game on Christmas Day - last year in Los Angeles, this time in Orlando, Fla.

Leaving family behind for the holidays is part of the NBA drill.

But when you're Ray Allen and your diabetic son isn't that far removed from hospitalization following a Thanksgiving night emergency, the time away gets a little harder to tolerate.

``The beautiful thing is iChat,'' the Celtics guard said of his primary mode of communication with his family while on the road.

``When I got on the bus the other day I linked in and they had a computer in the kitchen, so they can see me on the bus when I'm traveling,'' he said. ``At least they can see me and that I'm working and I'm going to be home soon.''

Allen's teenage daughter, Tierra, is well-accustomed to what happens at this time of year.

But his youngest two - sons Ray-Ray and Walker, the latter of whom has Type 1 or juvenile diabetes - still have a fuzzy awareness of dad's profession.

The good news, though, is that Walker has recovered following his brief hospitalization - an incident that had Allen rushing off the floor at the end of a Nov. 27 win against Toronto to join his family.

Though Allen could have missed the following day's flight to Miami for the start of a four-city, six-day road trip, he was a last-minute arrival on the tarmac at Hanscom Field in Bedford.

This time Allen will make the trip with the knowledge that Walker has a short memory.

``I think he forgot,'' Allen said. ``Right now his long-term memory is good, but his short-term memory, I don't know. Even when he got back home he forgot some of the toys in the toy room that he had. He thought he had new toys in the house, and they were just his old toys.

``I think he forgot, but I know he knows what he's dealing with, and he knows what he has to do different from his brother, and if he doesn't feel well he'll tell you.

``Sometimes he'll play with you, because last night he said he had to (vomit), and he didn't. So I said, `OK, if you have to (vomit) then let's get to the nursery,' and then he said, `I didn't.'

``He's learning the complexities of being a child and getting what he wants. That's how I know he's got his wits about him.''

Technology takes care of the rest.

In a sense, Allen's kids get to watch their father in three dimensions - on the computer via iChat, on television and the next time he walks through the door.

``I'm on the road, I'm on TV, and yet I'm right there in front of them, so they're always excited about how I was on the TV, and then I'm right there with them again,'' he said, still sighing at the thought of the next separation.

``It's tough. They're at the age where they're interested in what you do. When you come to the door they're excited. They just want to play with you. When we leave they don't understand quite yet why we leave and what we're doing.

``They don't know to look at the schedule, so they don't know. Are we coming back in four hours? Two hours? Two days? Three weeks? They don't know, and then one day I'll be back at the door.''

Balancing act

Back when he still was coaching, Byron Scott was asked to think about the rigors of the early NBA schedule - especially the one belonging to the former New Orleans coach's Hornets.

Whereas the Celtics played four of their first eight games on the road during a grueling 12-day stretch, the Hornets stumbled out of the gate with 11 games in 18 days, including seven road games.

Scott, who was fired shortly thereafter, smirked.

``Just a crazy schedule,'' he said, thinking wistfully about that time when he was a Laker. ``I guess that purple and gold I used to wear doesn't matter now. Only in LA can you get 17 of your first 20 games at home.''

Scott had done his math.

Friday night's game against Minnesota was the Lakers' 21st of the season, as well as their 17th at home.

They boasted a 10-game winning streak - all but one of those games played at Staples Center.

Funny how that NBA computer works.

Painful in Portland

The comparison now has stretched beyond chilling.

With the exception of the NBA title Bill Walton brought to Portland in 1977, Greg Oden appears to be reliving every injurious turn that plagued the last great center to put on a Blazers uniform.

Even Kevin Durant, the No. 2 pick behind Oden in the 2007 draft, had to feel for his fellow class member, who is out for the season with a fractured left patella (knee cap).

``Once I heard he was having surgery, to be honest with you, I almost drew a tear for him,'' Durant told the Oklahoman.

The Oklahoma City forward, off to such an explosive start this season, also brushed aside any notions that there is a rivalry between the two because of the jockeying for the top position in the draft.

``It's unfair to him because people don't know how hard he works every day,'' said Durant, who texted his sympathies to Oden shortly after hearing about the injury. ``They're already ready to tear him down. He's going to come back with a chip on his shoulder.''

Durant, of course, has followed the opposite path from Oden, and now is one of the toughest perimeter threats in the league, with a unique finishing touch.

Allen, asked if Durant's style reminded him at all of a particular NBA Hall of Famer, said, ``Yeah, there is a similarity to George Gervin. He's like a 7-foot George Gervin.''

Other Celtics similarly were impressed following last week's stop in Oklahoma City.

``Promising, very solid, very consistent,'' Kevin Garnett said. ``Offensively he's gifted. You have to play both ends, but I hear he has a hell of a work ethic and it shows when he comes out and plays.

``You don't just step on the court and put the ball in the basket. He's grown each year he's been in the league, and he's going to grow some more.''

Paul Pierce was put in the awkward position of trying to guard Durant.

``You have to put a body on him more,'' he said. ``You have to make him work, make him catch the ball out a little farther, and just be physical with him - he's an awesome talent. He's a matchup problem for just about anyone on the wing position, because he's just about 7 feet.''

Which brought Allen to another comparison - Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki.

``He's an incredible offensive talent,'' the Celtics guard said. ``You have to team defend him. He reminds me of Dirk, as someone who is long, and everybody who guards him has a mismatch.

``But what makes him tougher are the guys along side him. They have great shooters around him and post up players, and that makes him even tougher. If you look at what Dirk has done in Dallas, it's similar. If he's not playing well he has other guys who can carry the load, but at the same time our heads are turning because he's making plays.''

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