It’s about an hour ahead of tip-off. Allen Crabbe enters the Barclays Center main court wearing a black Brooklyn Nets warm-up.
He looks up at the arena ceiling, possibly taking in the moment.
DeMarre Carroll is already shooting around prior to their 7:30 p.m. contest against the New York Knicks.
Carroll smiles at Crabbe in passing between each jumpshot attempt. Crabbe takes a few moments to go over some instruction with a member of the Nets’ performance team, and gets to work.
Maybe Crabbe already knew what the moment would entail. And maybe he knew there would be more than just one.
One after another, he seamlessly drains mid-range jumpshots with ease and little effort.
His demeanor is calm. His shot is pure. His focus is laser.
A sharpshooter at work.
As for the actual game, it’s more of the same, much to the dismay of the crosstown foes. Take a look.
Simple story: Crabbe came in and scorched New York immediately, putting up 11 points in the first quarter after being inserted, hitting 3-of-4 three-point shots, and a lone make from inside the arc.
His teammates gleefully picked apart their blue-and-orange foe, but Crabbe emerged as the standout of the evening, pouring in 14 points (after another two-pointer and a free throw) despite seeing the floor for only 11 minutes. Nice debut 16 months after he signed an offer sheet with the Nets and three months after Portland, who matched the offer, decided to give him back... for nothing.
For him, there was no mystery. Like we said, he already knew.
“Just watching the first two preseason games, watching all the shots, watching how this offense flows, it’s the perfect system for me,” he said after the game. “I just came in with confidence. Like I said, it’s a different feel here. They’re telling you to do more, to shoot more, it’s like the ultimate green light. I’m out there playing basketball just freely. Not thinking about anything. Just letting the game come to me.”
The quick buckets were by design. Crabbe spoke about being anxious, knowing that after his ankle sprain, there’d be a minutes restriction.
“I wanted to do a little something,” he said before crediting his teammates with the added boost.
“We have a group of unselfish players,” Crabbe continued. “Even them, they call plays for me without me even asking them. Even in transition they’ll set a pick for me, and away screen. Just little things. I just feel like with the group of guys that we have, it’s all about unselfishness.”
If you’re Kenny Atkinson, a fellow Brooklyn Net, or simply, a fan, you couldn’t have really asked for more, but more there was: Crabbe made a couple of deflections and defensive plays, too.
Jeremy Lin said that made as big of an impact as Crabbe’s offense. Atkinson said that while people talk about his three point shooting and the mark he’ll make flourishing in this tailor-made system, the former Portland Trail Blazer is an all-around basketball player who can get it done on both ends.
Atkinson also said that he always knew. He and general manager Sean Marks knew that when they signed Allen Crabbe to the massive $75 million/four-year offer sheet last summer. The second best three-point shooter in the NBA is a good “fit.”
“We often talk about system fit,” said Atkinson postgame. “We targeted Allen and there was a reason. Tonight was a good start. It was exactly what we expected.”
The 14 points came on a 5-of-7 shooting exhibition, 3-of-4 from downtown. Although he won’t be able to keep up that level of efficiency throughout the entire grueling NBA season, the 6’6” California-born swingman did provide a glimpse of what he can do in the system of pace-and-space, and freedom for a sharpshooter.
So far, so very good.