Jarrett Allen and DeAndre Jordan have been involved in a timeshare at center for the Nets. But the team departed after practice Thursday for a season-long five-game road swing, and Jordan left with only one good ankle.
Portland is the first stop on the Nets’ itinerary. They play Friday night. So after spraining his left ankle in Monday night’s win over New Orleans, will Jordan be good to go? Kenny Atkinson couldn’t commit either way.
“Questionable,” he said. “He did some stuff today. So questionable but hopeful?”
If Jordan is out, the Nets can be hopeful about Allen giving them what they need. They have reason to believe he’s an improved player from last season and even from earlier this season, his third since arriving as the 22nd overall pick in 2017.
“It took me a while,” Allen said. “At the beginning of this season, I know I wasn’t playing my best, but everybody kept believing in me. Everybody said it’s going to come to me, and I’m starting to play better.”
Indeed the 6-11, 243-pound Texas alum posted his second double-double in the Nets’ 3-4 start when he scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against the Pelicans. Allen has started four games to Jordan’s three. Allen is averaging 9.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. He’s still just 21.
“He’s stronger,” Atkinson said. “I think his decision-making’s gotten a little better because you do have to throw it to that guy on the [pick-and-] roll. I think aggressiveness; I think I can already see a more aggressive person.
“But he’s still a young guy. He’s still a young learning player, and he has a ways to go. But I would say you give him a task, he’s going to accomplish it. So I trust him. His obvious strengths: Great rim protector, rolls to the rim. I’ve been pleased with him so far.”
But what does Atkinson do if Jordan isn’t in uniform and Allen comes out for a rest? There’s youth behind him in rookie Nicolas Claxton and Henry Ellenson.
So starting power forward Taurean Prince, who’s listed at 6-7 and is averaging 15.0 points and 7.0 rebounds, could be a candidate to also play some center. That also goes for 6-9 forward Rodions Kurucs. Atkinson left the arena door open to going small.
“We did some today with that,” Atkinson said. “That’s in the realm. That’s very possible.”
Claxton would love to get minutes, too. The 6-11, 215-pound forward-center has yet to make his NBA debut. The Nets selected him with the 31st overall pick after two seasons at Georgia. He’s just 20, but he’s gives off a confident vibe.
“I feel extremely ready,” Claxton said. “The coaching staff, they’ve done a great job of just preparing me for whenever my time will come. So with D.J. being out right now with his ankle injury, I feel like I’m more than ready to play that role.”