SALT LAKE CITY -- Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers was braced for the moment even before Ray Allen shot down his team Wednesday night at Staples Center with an 11-point fourth-quarter closing burst.
"He can run forever," Rivers said.
Apparently, that's the plan.
A week ago, after the Heat had just defeated the New York Knicks behind an unexpected burst of youth from Shane Battier, Battier spoke of the meaning of the moment, the 35-year-old forward noting it well could have been his final game at Madison Square Garden.
"Yeah," Allen said, "I mean, I think there's a lot of us in this locker room that could have those same thoughts, that could be mulling over those same ideas.
"But we just all deal with situations differently."
Battier sees the end could be near. Allen, 38, is not as inclined to entertain such visions.
"I just try not to predetermine," he said. "It's like waking up in the morning and having an injury and saying, 'I'm not playing at 7:30 at night.' I say, 'Well, let me build my body into it and see.' "
As evidenced by that closing kick against the Clippers, the body remains willing. Allen, by far the oldest player on the court, was the lone Heat player to go all 12 minutes in the fourth-quarter of the down-to-the-wire victory.
"At this point, I love how my body feels," he said, as the Heat turn their attention to Saturday night's game against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena, the second stop of this six-game trip. "It's 18 years for me. I love what I've done and how I've continued to feel."
This season very well could be the end for Battier, Rashard Lewis, James Jones. It already is starting to look like the beginning of the end for Udonis Haslem.
But for the NBA's Benjamin Button, the NBA has turned into an age-bending experience.
"It's funny," Battier said. "The thought of me retiring has crossed my mind. But Ray? No. I think really, realistically, if he wanted to play another three or four more years, he could do it. He could play until he's 42. He could, because he takes impeccable care of his body."
That diligence to a degree has Allen constantly evaluating where he stands, where his body stands. And then it's back to work.
"I think about it all the time. I thought about it last year," he said. "And obviously you get to the summer, you take an assessment of your body. I didn't want it to be something that consumes my thoughts. I've never had to worry about it, so I've kind of let it play itself out."
To Allen, retirement comes when your body disqualifies you.
"I don't plan on it," he said. "And I don't say it from the standpoint that I'm going to retire. I'm just saying I don't worry about the plan from this vantage point now. I just go into the offseason and I think it'll be interesting where we all stand, where we all sit."
A year ago, Allen deferred his decision. He could have opted out of this final season on his Heat contract, sought more than this single remaining season. But he didn't want to deal with the future beyond 2013-14 at that moment.
"I was like, 'Let's try it again and we'll deal with that issue then,' because nothing's more important than the present," he said. "And that's the one thing I learned early in my career, is always be in the moment."
Because Allen's passion burns, he's not sold that the passion won't rekindle elsewhere in the locker room.
"We'll get to a point where it'll make sense to us or not," he said. "But you'll know it when you're sitting there. And Shane'll know it when he's sitting there, come July. Even the last game, he'll sit there and he'll say, 'You know what, I've had a great career,' or, 'Man, I still have it left in me.' "
And if Battier and others reconsider, then Allen might not have to consider anything.
"I think my desire to continue to play is all about wanting to be around this group of guys," he said. "Because the last two years have been my funnest, just with these guys, this locker room, because of the camaraderie that has built, and the togetherness. That's what means more than anything."
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