He’s only 22 years old and already has three NBA seasons under his belt, but life has changed dramatically for Jarrett Allen since the firing of coach Kenny Atkinson last March. Allen was seen as one of the Nets’ building blocks, but when Jacque Vaughn stepped in as interim coach, he immediately elevated 32-year-old veteran De Andre Jordan to the starting center role, which was viewed as a move endorsed by superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
That lasted only two games before the NBA shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic. When the season re-started in July in Orlando, Jordan sat out after contracting the coronavirus, and Allen stepped up to average 13.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists over the 10 games he played in the NBA bubble.
Despite that performance, Allen’s name has been mentioned prominently in trade rumors, especially as part of a potential deal for Rockets star James Harden. So, Allen is at a crossroads in his Nets career as training camp begins.
Asked during a video conference on Wednesday for his reaction to the benching, Allen said, "I honestly kind of saw it coming. There was a lot changing. I’m not holding a grudge against anything. It just happened, it was best for the team, and in the bubble, I wanted to show that I wanted to be a starter again and I was definitely capable of playing against playoff-level teams."
Allen said the Nets are aware of the trade rumors, but they have tried not to let it interfere with their camaraderie.
"I definitely see everything, I know what’s going on, I’m aware of all of it," Allen said. "I just try to put it aside…Whether I’m happy about what happens or not happy, it’s all basketball, and I’m here to play it."
Clearly, there is no rancor between Allen and Jordan. The veteran stayed in touch with Allen during the re-start, and he was impressed by the young center’s performance. Allen got extended playing time because backup center Nic Claxton also missed the re-start with a knee injury.
"He’s only 21, so, the cardio didn’t hurt him," Jordan said of Allen. "It was tough for me personally not being able to go down there. It was frustrating. But I couldn’t control what was going on.
"Seeing JA down there being able to anchor the defense and talk as much as he did…it was awesome. He really took on that role knowing that he was pretty much going to be the only big man down there that we had. He took it like a pro. I’m excited to see what effect it has on this upcoming season."
Jordan said he survived his bout with COVID-19 with no lingering effects. He and all the Nets have to pass two tests to get into the training facility every day during camp.
The first full-team workout doesn’t happen until Sunday, but Jordan said the Nets are embracing the challenge of competing for a title with stars Durant and Irving both healthy. "It’s good to see Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving back on the court," Jordan said. "I don’t think we’re going to put any pressure on ourselves. There’s already going to be enough outside noise as it is, so, there’s no need for us to add more pressure. We know what our goals are, and we know we have guys who have made it to that goal and reached that pinnacle, so, we know what it’s going to take. But it’s something that we’re looking forward to."
Notes and quotes – TNT announced the Nets will host Golden State, Durant’s former team, in the first game of their Opening Night doubleheader on Dec. 22. The Lakers host the Clippers in the second game.