When the Nets faced Basquete Franca on Friday night, the Nets divided duties at the 5 three ways: Jarrett Allen started and played 19:45; DeAndre Jordan played slightly less at 19:23 and rookie Nic Claxton 8:52. Add them up and it’s 48:00, meaning the three bigs, between 20 and 31 years old, didn’t play a second together.
Is that what we’re likely to see come October 23 when the Nets open up vs. the Timberwolves at Barclays Center? How about Thursday when they play the Lakers in Shanghai and face veteran bigs Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee?
Claxton, the Nets second round draft pick, certainly impressed, missing only one shot (5-for-6) and scoring a total of 13 points, leading the Nets centers. But he’s more likely bound for the 4 due to his lack of bulk and his ability to hit the 3-pointer and handle the ball. Besides, he’s due split his time between Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum, home the Long Island Nets.
“Yeah, I definitely would be open to it,” Claxton said of playing the 5 in the G League. “If they want me to do that, I’ll go down there and hoop and make the best out of the situation.”
That leaves Allen, the Nets 21-year-old, and Jordan, who is a three-time All-NBA center, having led the league in rebounds in 2014 and 2015. They didn’t miss a shot against mismatched Franca, going a combined 9-of-9. In fact Jordan is the NBA’s all time leader in field goal percentage, shooting 66.96 percent. Allen shot 59.0 percent last season.
At Media Day, Jordan complimented Allen’s work ethic and progression. In addition, Jordan said when it comes to coming off the bench, he wants whatever is going to help the team. That’s quite a concession. Jordan has started every game he’s played going back to 2010. That’s nearly 700 games without coming off the bench. In fact, he’s come off the bench only 112 times in his 819 career NBA games.
Does that matter to him? He says no.
“I think that Jarrett’s done a great job here,” Jordan said at the Nets’ Media Day. “He’s done things that helped them win games here, helped us win games here. So I think that we just want to build off of that, but we’re going to be competitive. And we’re going to bring out the best in each other. And whatever is going to help our team, I think that we’re both ready to do that.”
Kenny Atkinson, who’ll get the final say, has raved about Allen, telling the Media Day audience that he may have had the most impressive off-season. And he’s said the two players have been highly competitive in practice.
“It’s great. They went at it today a little bit,” said Atkinson said last week. “I saw a little jostling. A couple elbows. It’s good for Jarrett. DJ, he’s got a physicality about him. It’s going to make Jarrett get better and Jarrett’s going to make DeAndre get better. They’ve both been really good. So where does it come out? The Nets will be stronger.”
“Every single day we’re going head-to-head,” said Allen after a practice last week. “I think it’s a great experience for me and for him. We’re bringing the best out of each other, we’re working hard and, honestly, it couldn’t be a better challenge for me.”
One way it may work out is to have the two tag team, their minutes depending on the opponent. At this point in their careers, Allen is the better rim protector but he’s had trouble defending the league’s biggest centers, players like Joel Embiid. That’s never been an issue for the bulkier Jordan. And after a tough time playing for a tanking Knicks organization last year, word is that he’s more motivated.
Jordan, as we’ve learned, is not just big. He’s outspoken, a defensive quarterback. So, at age 31, Jordan will come off the bench for the majority of the season, for the first time since the 2009-10 season when he was with the Los Angeles Clippers. Last season, splitting time with the Dallas Mavericks and the New York Knicks, Jordan started all the games he played in, but got 12 DNP-CD’s at season’s end as the Knicks went exclusively with Mitchell Robinson who’s the same age at Allen.
Allen started his own streak of starts and played 80 games for Brooklyn last season averaging 26.2 minutes, 10.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. He’s not likely to give up his starting spot easily, but with three centers on the roster, he may not play as many minutes.