Jarrett Allen had a “moment” Tuesday that captured in seven seconds the biggest criticism of the 21-year-old Nets center. In a Team USA scrimmage with Allen’s USA Select Team in Las Vegas, Miami’s Bam Adebayo took advantage of him...
Put aside that Adebayo may have fouled Allen and may have traveled. Once again, it looked like a stronger, more aggressive big could take advantage of Allen. As every Nets fan knows, that has been the signature criticism of the third-year player: He gets out muscled.
Now, with the addition of two-time All-NBA defensive team center DeAndre Jordan, the question is how often and how much will Kenny Atkinson go with Jordan over Allen. Will it be situational? Not to mention who will start for Brooklyn? Jordan is coming off a disappointing —for him— season with the Knicks and Mavericks, but has a four-year, fully guaranteed $40 million contract ... and new “motivation,” as Atkinson has called it.
The Nets believed they saw a changed Allen the last time Allen was in Vegas, last month for the NBA Summer League. Armed with an additional 10 pounds of muscle, Allen was noticeably more aggressive. More than that, Michael Scotto of The Athletic reported, Allen showed off a “brazen confidence.”
“I think it’s been, for us, very impressive to see him day to day be the first one in and the last one out and to see him be vocal as well,” said Nets Summer League coach Adam Harrington. “We’re relying on some things that maybe (he) wasn’t as comfortable doing in the regular season. It’s exciting to see.”
A league executive applauded Allen for simply playing in Summer League again.
“The fact he was there was impressive to me, to be honest,” one NBA executive told The Athletic. “The guy is a legit rotation player for them and started games. You don’t often see those level of players at Summer League anymore.”
And Kenny Atkinson himself suggested that the starting center’s role is Allen’s to lose, Scotto suggested.
“As far as starting, not starting, Jarrett Allen said, ‘Hey, I want to be the starter,’ which I love,” Atkinson said last month. “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.”
Atkinson’s point that Jordan can “support” Allen suggests that the Texas product has the edge on the Texas A&M and although Jordan has started more than 600 straight games, he’s told Atkinson he’s ready to do what the team needs him to do. Allen of course is 10 years younger than Jordan and is the third youngest player on the roster. Only Dzanan Musa and rookie Nicolas Claxton are younger.
Allen has indeed said he wants to start.
“Everybody wants to start, but in this case, it doesn’t matter to me,” Allen said during a break in Summer League action before a brief pause and an honest rejoinder. “F*ck it, yeah, I want to start. F*ck it.”
Allen’s teammates have long remarked on how he’s the embodiment of the new NBA big man: athletic, mobile, able to move out to the perimeter on offense and patrol the paint on defense. Ed Davis, who has moved on to Utah, said that Allen has the potential to be a $100 million player and Spencer Dinwiddie thinks he’s a future All-Star.
“Spencer, he’s always had a confidence in me,” Allen said. “I’m just trying to use that confidence to boost myself up. And somebody like Spencer, who had an amazing season and got paid, when somebody like that says I can do that, I’m going to take it and run with it.”
There’s other motivation besides rewarding his teammates’ faith in him. Next year at this time, Allen will be up for an extension beginning in 2021-22. If he does well, he could be angling for a big bucks deal ... on the scale of Jordan’s or bigger.
- Jarrett Allen’s fight to keep his starting spot with the Nets has already started this summer - Michael Scotto - The Athletic New York