The Nets are going in a different direction down low. Not so much spread-the-floor offense, not so much intimidating presence on defense. Instead, it’s going to be about developing a big who can finish around the rim on one end and protect it athletically on the other.
“Lobs and blocks” are in for the Nets. DeAndre Jordan, Hassan Whiteside and Rudy Gobert have shown the potential for players who can catch lobs at one end of the court and block shots at the other.
That should be obvious from their decision to draft Jarrett Allen, a 6’11” athlete from Texas with a 7’5 1/2” wingspan but it doesn’t end there. Also on the Nets summer league roster, with a chance at making the big club, is another Texan, another 6’11” athlete who also has a 7’5 1/2” wingspan: Prince Ibeh (pronounced E-bay). Allen grew up in Austin, Ibeh in Amarillo.
“I'd say they're intrigued by my potential and kinda keep an eye on where i can go with things and keep progressing,” said Ibeh in an interview at Nassau Coliseum 10 days ago.
In fact, Ibeh was Allen’s predecessor at UT in coach Shaka Smart’s system. He was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 and although his offense is nowhere near as developed as Allen’s, he can swat it with the best of them and disrupt the pick-and-roll.
“(Lobs and blocks) are always going to be my roots, an energy guy, playing above the rim. I'm a versatile defender, those types of things, but at the same time, I'm always going to work on different things to branch out. Never going to box myself in, limit myself but those things are always going to be my main strengths.”
The Nets have been “intrigued” by Ibeh for a while. They had scouted him at Texas, finding as Ronald Nored, the Long Island Nets coach said, things that were “very attractive.”
But after being injured while preparing for the 2016 draft, tearing his quad, Ibeh didn’t make the top 60 then limped his way through a summer league stint with the Bucks. He figured it was time to rest up.
Then, in February, the Nets decided to take a chance on him, signing Ibeh to a deal with Long Island ... and quietly promising that they’d bring him up to Brooklyn on a 10-day deal, give him a chance to show what he can do. It was all low-key.
Ultimately, things didn’t quite work out, at least the way they planned. Ibeh had to get into game shape after not playing for seven months and because of the Nets problems keeping point guards healthy, there was no real 10-day. On the last weekend of the season, he did get a “quickie” 10-day. The Nets signed him to a 24-hour deal which paid $75,000 and more importantly, gave him an extra year of service. If he signs with any NBA team it will give him another $500,000 of vets minimum money. Not bad considering where he had been.
“I was originally was going to take the whole year off, but you can’t find, especially being a big guy, finding 5-on-5 and things like that to play on your own,” Ibeh said of his decision to play last season. “So that was a big part of me coming to join (Long Island), just to get my feel for the game back and get back to being used to things so that by the summer time, I'd be where I need to be. I'd say I accomplished that.”
The Nets invited him to work out during the summer at HSS Training Center and play for their summer league squad. Just turned 23, Ibeh says he’s excited by the prospect and has used his time in the gym to lose some weight, about 20 pounds, to improve his mobility and work on other aspects of his game, Monday through Friday.
“Being able to approach it now, finally healthy, finally ready to show what I can do is what I'm most excited about,” he said. “I’m happiest with my overall feel, finishing around the basket, making moves in tight spaces, just getting use to playing at a high level again.”
Of course, the Nets have since drafted Allen who they’re very excited about. As Sean Marks said Monday, they’re hoping he can fill the lobs and blocks role, with some offense eventually thrown in.
“The thing that intrigues me the most about Jarrett is his upside potential. I know Shaka Smart pretty well,” Marks told Evan Roberts of WFAN. “I had several conversations with him. I respect his program that he's built there. And he said to me, 'I don't think I have come across a guy where his growth curve has gone up that far in that short amount of time.’”
People around Ibeh don’t think the Allen selection dooms Ibeh’s future with the Nets. The team is obviously committed to the type of game the two Texans play and there are three center spots on the roster. Allen’s one, Timofey Mozgov is another and Ibeh could vie for the third.
“The way the league is going, every team can benefit from a guy that way,” Ibeh said, describing what he can do. “People talk about the game spacing out, becoming more stretch big guys, but I think there's always going to be a need for someone to be a defensive anchor.”
“He's a really good instinctive defensive player. I think he can be a really good rim protector and anchor a defense and he can be in a role offensively where he's setting pick-and-rolls and rolling and finishing,” said his coach. “I think if he does that, I think he can really effective.”
We’ll know soon enough.