Jarrett Allen is all of 21. Only Dzanan Musa and rookie Nicolas Claxton are younger than the third-year player. Only Claxton is taller. He has improved his first two years and made his bones last season, becoming one of the game’s best —and certainly most spectacular — shot blockers Two of his swats were listed in NBA’s top five — including the block of the year against LeBron James.
Now, he’s prepared to improve again, especially since he’s playing for an extension off his rookie deal. But there is a complication: the Nets, as part of their deals to woo Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to Brooklyn, also agreed to sign 31-year, two-time All-NBA center DeAndre Jordan to a four-year (no options), $40 million contract.
Allen has been peppered with questions about the competition between him and Jordan every time he’s been within range of a TV camera or reporter’s notebook, and his charity even at Levels Barbershop Tuesday was no exception. Although the purpose was to get the kids spruced up for the opening of school —and equip them with school supplies— the talk was about the upcoming season and the competition between the two bigs.
So what’s the solution for Allen? Working hard and improving his offensive game, for starters, Allen said. After that, things will take care of themselves, he believes.
“We’re all basketball players at the end of the day. We all want to be the first on the court,” he said. “But at the end of the day, whatever I can do to help the team win, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Specifically, Allen said, he’s been working on his 3-point shooting. After hitting 5-of-15 his rookie year, Allen regressed quite a bit last season, hitting only 6-of-45, a mere 13 percent. He expect to improve this year and expects that will help him get minutes not just at the 5, but the 4, too.
“Definitely been shooting more this summer,” said of his 3-point shooting. “I’ve always been saying the game has been expanding to the 3-point line, so I have to stay ready for anything they throw at me. I don’t know what it’s going to come down to, or the coach’s system, but for me, I’m preparing to play the 4 or the 5. It’s interchangeable for us. But I’m ready to play whatever they throw at me.”
Allen has put on more than 10 pounds since the end of last year, up to nearly 250 pounds. that will help too. Jordan, who weighed in at 265 last year with Dallas and New York, has reportedly dropped a few pounds as well and claims he too has been working on his 3-point shot.
Of course, the Nets have other 4’s on the roster, including one who might end all debate about rotations on his return.
In an interview at Summer League, Kenny Atkinson didn’t seem to be bothered by having so many bigs with different skill sets. He thinks there will be plenty of opportunity. He likes the competition and thinks minutes could be decided by the situation on the court.
“As far as starting, not starting, Jarrett Allen said, ‘Hey, I want to be the starter,’ which I love,” Atkinson said. “It’s great. I think we embrace the competition. I think that’ll play out. I do think it helps us matchup-wise. If it’s Joel Embiid, maybe Jarrett gets two quick fouls or something (and) we do have a heck of a player to support him and potentially starting different guys, too. I think that’s possible. I think it’s a great tandem to have.”
And although Jordan has started every game he’s played in since 2011, Atkinson has said Jordan has told him he’s ready to assume whatever role the head coach lays out for him.
So be prepared for a lot of new and interesting line-ups and rotations ... and comments about how winning is all that matters. But at one point out in Las Vegas, Allen made it clear that he wants to be on the court when the ball goes up.
“Everybody wants to start, but in this case, it doesn’t matter to me,” Allen said, then added. “F*ck it, yeah, I want to start. F*ck it.”
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