Every time Kenny Atkinson opens his mouth about his rookie big man, it seems he’s preparing fans for Jarrett Allen getting a lot of reps with the big club. The once widely held belief that the 6’11” Texas product would spend a lot of time in Long Island now seems misplaced.
Monday’s practice at HSS Training Center was no exception. Atkinson gushed about the 19-year-old’s progress.
“I think he’s farther along than we anticipated. Without having really played a game yet, that’s my gut,” said the head coach.
How so? Where’s he showing progress?
“I would say defensively,” said Atkinson. “His reaction time, his hands, how quick he is to the ball, how mobile and agile he is. The kind of things we really liked in the draft. He protects the rim.
“He has a poise – a quiet confidence about him,” added Atkinson. “Offensively, he’s got a good feel. He knows what to do already. Usually there are struggles this early. I’d expect more. Because he wasn’t with us in Summer League. I thought he’d come in way way behind the eight ball but he’s hung in there.”
Will he start? Over two experienced (if journeymen) centers in Timofey Mozgov and Tyler Zeller? No one is saying yet, but the praise just keeps on coming.
At their joint press conference on September 19, Atkinson spoke about how he is “definitely excited about” Allen and even made a comparison to a Hall of Famer, albeit with caveats.
“I think you’re seeing a guy his athletic ability is pretty impressive. How fast he is up and down the court, how quick he is off his feet. How well he moves. We’re talking about a modern 5 man in this league. He kind of fits the bill,” said Atkinson, sitting with Sean Marks.
“I’d been bothering Sean like, ‘Hey can we get a guy, that kind of player, in our system.’ Listen, I don’t wanna make the guy Kareem Abdul-Jabbar right off the bat, but definitely excited about him. The last thing about him, I just like his demeanor. He’s a quiet, competitive guy and we’re excited to see him get on the court.”
The hits just kept on coming in Annapolis where the Nets held training camp.
“I see him mature beyond his years. I don’t want to make any predictions yet where he is, but right now if I was going to say early returns he’s going to help us sooner than I thought,” said Atkinson. “He’s really a deterrent at the rim. Just get a little stronger.”
That said, keep in mind that no one has said Mozgov (who outweighs Allen by 40 pounds and has seven more years experience) will be the starting 5 either Tuesday vs. the Knicks or October 18 vs. the Pacers on Opening Night.
The question now is, will they go with the ‘Fro?