There was a reason former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson started third-year center Jarrett Allen ahead of accomplished 32-year-old veteran DeAndre Jordan. It was a choice made with an eye toward the Nets’ long-term future, but when Atkinson was fired, Jordan was named the starter by new coach Jacque Vaughn, a move widely seen as a reflection of the wishes of injured superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
But Jordan contracted COVID-19 in June and opted out of participating in the NBA restart, so the way is clear for Allen to reassert his claim. In three scrimmages in Orlando, he had three double-double performances, averaging 13.0 points on 17-for-22 shooting and 10.3 rebounds. That included a 19-10 effort in a loss to the Jazz on Monday, when his playing time increased from 23 minutes per game to nearly 31.
Guard Caris LeVert will be tasked with carrying the offensive load, but he liked what he saw from Allen matched against tough Jazz center Rudy Gobert. “I loved the way he competed against Gobert,” LeVert said of Allen. “Gobert’s one of the top bigs, one of the top rim protectors in the league, and I think JA’s up there as well. I think he’s going to come into his own every single game, and I think games like tonight really show that. He’s just got to be consistent with it . . . I can’t wait for him to keep getting better and see what his ceiling is.”
Considering the attention LeVert will receive from opposing defenses when the Nets resume the season, starting against the Magic on Friday, Allen knows he can have a major impact as an outlet at the rim in the pick-and-roll. That’s what happened when Vaughn ramped up Allen’s minutes against the Jazz, and he must carry the load at center until G League star Donta Hall is ready to join the rotation.
Asked about the increased playing time he can expect, Allen said, “I’m not too concerned. I’ve come to realize I’m more conditioned than I thought I was in the past, so I think I can handle it. But it’s going to be good when Donta comes in and we have another athletic center to be able to catch lobs, put pressure on the rim and block shots.”
The Nets were off on Tuesday, but it’s likely Hall will practice with them the next two days before the restart. In the meantime, second-year man Rodions Kurucs is serving as an undersized backup center, but Allen is looking forward to when Kurucs can return to power forward and team with him.
“I love playing with Rodi,” Allen said. “He’s one of my good friends, and he just gives me more energy out there, pushes me to compete. He plays hard . . . maybe I’ll take some rebounds while he’s blocking my man out. He’s just all over the court, and it’s fun playing with guys like that.”
Notes & quotes: The Nets made it official on Tuesday when they announced John Abbamondi has left Madison Square Garden to assume the role of chief executive officer of Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment Global responsible for overall business strategy and operations under owner Joe Tsai.