Jarrett Allen rocks an afro that makes it difficult for him to fit in his own locker. He looks at his phone before games and takes advice from his locker room neighbor, Jared Dudley. There is no ritual and there are no flashy intentions behind what you see.
But as the 20-year-old continues to gain more time in the NBA, there is little doubt that he’s matured on and off the court. Call him a silent leader if you will, somebody who oversees the ship in an effective yet quiet way.
The Nets entered Sunday’s contest against the Philadelphia 76ers with an 8-12 record – a slight improvement over the past two seasons. Allen explains the positives and negatives through the quarter mark of the season.
“From a team standpoint we aren’t necessarily satisfied where we are, but you can tell we’ve all grown up together,” he said in an exclusive sitdown with NetsDaily. “We’ve grown up as people and as players and you can definitely tell we worked on our games this summer.”
Indeed. Several young guys have shown improvement in their individual games, namely players like Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, D’Angelo Russell and Joe Harris – all who have been with the team for more than one off-season now.
But most in the organization will tell you that Allen himself is right at the top of the list. And how did that happen? A little confidence boost from the coaching staff.
“For me, I’m just a lot more confident out there, I’ve been able to hold my own against some of the big-name players,” said Allen. “I feel like the work over the summer, working on my body and things like that have definitely helped a lot more with certain aspects like positioning to block or contest a shot. Other than that, it just comes down to me being more confident than ever before.”
Allen has asserted himself as one of the best rim protectors in the NBA. According to NBA.com, Allen is allowing just 3.9 field goals per game within six feet. That’s good for 15th in the NBA, but it doesn’t tell the full story.
He ranks first in defensive field goal percentage, allowing opposing players to hit just 52.5 percent of their shots within six feet. After him? Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert. Furthermore, he’s 15th in blocks per game at 1.63.
He’s already broken a couple of his rookie records. Through 21 games, he’s recorded a new career-high for points (24) and double doubles (seven ... including four in the last six games). It took him 72 games to get four double doubles last year.
Again, there’s little doubt that he improved his game. Now it’s about consistency, otherwise known as the next step for most young players.
“Consistency. I definitely need to find more consistency. Like, I had three double doubles three games in a row and I followed up with two bad games. It’s stuff like that, trying to stay consistent and take it game by game.”
Part of becoming consistent is doing it on both ends. While the numbers look good for Jarrett, he’s notorious for allowing stronger bigs to have career nights against him. For example, the Nets allowed 20 or more points from opposing bigs 40 times last year.
It’s been a common theme this year as well. Opposing centers have recorded 15 double doubles against the Nets, including five games with 20+ points and 20+ rebounds, and two games with 30+ points and 10+ rebounds.
It’s a few things. First off, while this lack of D isn’t solely Allen’s fault —defense is played as a team— these are his match-ups. Secondly, he bulked over the summer but still has work to do. NBA bigs today are versatile in ways we’ve never seen. They’re stronger, faster and some have the ability to stretch the floor.
I ask him how he prepares for a game like Sunday’s where he was matched up against a player like Joel Embiid.
“The coaching staff tells me to use my quickness. I’m not as strong as somebody like Joel Embiid or Dwight Howard, so I have to use my quickness to get around them and getting better positioning.”
It’s a work in progress. Embiid went off for 32 points and 12 rebounds in a 127-125 victory over the Nets. So, figure it out yourself. Some of it is on Jarrett. Some of it is a compliment to the chef or in this case, opposing bigs, who have changed the entire dynamic of the league. Allen did have 17 and 10 of his own, shooting 63.6 percent.
And so, we’re one quarter of the way through the season and Allen has shown that he can be one of those special bigs who can change the dynamic of the game ... if not immediately. He’s already doing it in certain areas, and just wait until the three-point shot starts falling.
“The coaches tell me to keep shooting it. I worked on it all summer, it’s going to start falling eventually.”
You want confidence? On Monday, a fan commented on an Allen Instagram post by telling him, “You’re a beast, but you have to chill with those ill-advised 3s,”