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Nets loyalty to Allen Crabbe finally paying off

Indiana Pacers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Matteo Marchi/NBAE via Getty Images

When you hire somebody with a quality skillset tailor-made for what your company aims to perfect, you wait.

You wait because while understanding that the fit is supposed to be ideal, actually fitting in is a process. You wait because you know there will be growing pains, but after a while, you’ll recognize exactly why you waited. You wait because of the belief that eventually, even though it could take months, your hire will pay off.

So, like an organization whose progress depends on it, you wait … you wait … and you wait even more. A growing majority of your supporters suggest you’ve even waited for too long.

But then, finally, Allen Crabbe goes off.

Again. Again. And Again.

When the Brooklyn Nets signed Crabbe in July of 2016 to a massive four-year, $75 million offer sheet, much of the basketball world thought Sean Marks and company were bugging. Evidently, the Portland Trail Blazers did not, because devoid of any logic or sensibilities, they matched the offer, even after signing Evan Turner to an almost identical contract.

As expected, one summer later, Crabbe was on the trade market, and here came the Nets, who pulled off the deal for the man they had wanted 12 months prior. The price was Andrew Nicholson who was actually no price at all. The 6’9” forward was subsequently waived, stretched and well-wished to China. The Blazers just wanted rid of Crabbe’s salary.

In Brooklyn, where three-point shooting is not a request, it’s a demand, the change in scenery hit the Calironia-born Sniper like, finally …

Welcome home.

Back in October, he was told that for the first time in his NBA career, the cuffs were off.

“Watching all the shots, watching how this offense flows, it’s the perfect system for me,” he said after torching the New York Knicks with 14 points in 11 minutes in a preseason game. “I just came in with confidence – 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.”

But while he was told it, did he learn it?

For four more months in the system, he had growing pains, even in the ideal situation, but then we caught a glimpse.

Crabbe rose up and dropped a career-high 34 points in a loss against the Detroit Pistons in Michigan on February 7. Three days later, the Nets next game, he did it at home, dropping 28 points against the New Orleans Pelicans, hitting eight three’s in the process, tying a personal-best, just days after draining six.

After scoring a calm 15 points on Monday, he netted 24 points and connected on five three’s against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, again leading the team and again exploited the strengths this pace-and-space Nets style should have afforded their 6’6” swingman from the jump.

So what took so long?

“It’s a good question. We’ve kind of been hammering the same message to him all year,” said Kenny Atkinson, perhaps Crabbe’s biggest advocate during this roller coaster, before Wednesday’s game. “Sometimes it takes a guy a while in a new program to find his niche and find that point where he feels comfortable. I do think with a couple of guys being out (Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert), I think he’s kind of realized, ‘well I better step it up because we’re missing a few guys.’ I think that’s part of it.

“Part of it is his growth as a leader, we need him shooting the ball, we need his points,” Atkinson continued in a very telling manner. “I think he’s defended pretty well all year, and that’s one thing I’m really, really happy with. Right now he’s giving us good minutes on both ends, and you can see he’s exhausted at the end of games and that’s the way it should be. That’s the role he needs to step into and he needs to embrace it.”

Crabbe himself says he needed time to adjust. The Nets need Crabbe to be aggressive, and although he has all the tools Brooklyn needs, it hasn’t been in his nature after being nurtured in Portland to defer to others.

“Honestly, the opportunity was given to me in the beginning, it just hasn’t been in my nature,” he said candidly on Wednesday afternoon after team shootaround. “You can’t go from one system being a role player to a guy where they’re seeing ‘we’re just giving you the green light.’ I’ve been acclimated to playing a certain way for four years.

“For me, it’s just I’m not able to turn the switch off and turn another one on and just go out there and be overly aggressive. I feel like with certain people it just takes time. It took time with me, hopefully I can just continue to play like this.”

There’s no question that Crabbe has also put in the work, putting up extra shots on off days, even on ‘recovery days,’ he says.

“I don’t want those to be recovery days for me,” he said. “I want to come in and just get a good workout in. I feel like me getting workouts in between the games allows me to keep the confidence, it allows me to continue to see the ball go in even though it’s just me and the gym. Just to have that repetition so I can translate that into the game, I think that’s been helping me lately, even now.”

And although Crabbe has been putting in the extra work all season long, even in the midst of his shooting slumps, it’s all about persistence. In other words, dare we say it, he trusted the process.

”My play hasn’t been what I’ve envisioned to play since I’ve gotten here but the way I’ve been playing the last few games is how I’ve been wanting to play,” he admitted. “I’m just glad that it’s finally clicking for me. Like I said, they’ve always got the confidence in me whether it’s six points here, four points there, 2-for-10 here, they tell me to keep shooting, and I think that’s what’s been allowing me to fight through those slumps. They’ve still had the confidence in me that they’ve had since day one. I think everything is rolling for me now.”

The Nets are reaping the benefits of sticking with Crabbe, whom they have not elected to bench upon D’Angelo Russell’s return to action. The hope for the team, and for Crabbe, is that his ascent continues after the All-Star Break.