For second-year Nets center Jarrett Allen, the preseason opener against the Knicks Wednesday night at Barclays Center marks the beginning of a gauntlet that will give him immediate feedback on how much he has improved over his rookie season.
Knicks center Enes Kanter averaged a double-double last season and helped lead a sweep of the Nets, and that will be followed by games against powerful 6-11 Detroit All-Star center Andre Drummond, 7-foot Toronto center Jonas Valanciunas and then a rematch with Kanter.
“I think going right into playing against some big bodies, it’s going to show what I did all last year and what’s coming for me in the coming years,” Allen said after practice on Tuesday. “It’s just a good way to start it off.”
Allen showed tremendous promise during a rookie season in which he averaged 8.2 points and 5.4 rebounds and shot .589 percent, and he finished by taking over as the starter for his final 31 games. But the 6-10 Allen is only 237 pounds and spent the summer working to build his strength to better handle big men like Drummond and Kanter, who sometimes overpowered him.
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson has challenged Allen to become a far more productive rebounder this season, and he said the preseason schedule will be a good measuring stick.
“It’s a great test, yes,” Atkinson said. “But he’s getting it every day in practice with Ed Davis. I know Ed Davis isn’t 7-2, but he’s a physical, physical player. We keep saying how great it’s going to be playing against Ed every day. He’s getting great preparation for playing against these big, strong guys.
“I think Jarrett’s gotten stronger. He’s definitely taken a step up, but he’s got some room [to improve]. He’s a young guy, 20 years old, it’s normal.”
The addition of 6-10 backup center Ed Davis, who is entering his ninth NBA season and long has been one of the league’s most efficient rebounders, not only should help alleviate some of the Nets’ rebounding woes but also spur Allen’s growth.
Asked if he expects Davis to be a mentor, Allen said, “Yeah, I’m just taking things he does on the court and seeing how it works for him. If it works for him, I’ll try to translate it to my game to make it work for me…It’s positioning, and obviously for me, it’s going to be strength and just activity. I need to have more activity on the defensive end and offensive end.”
Notes and quotes: Atkinson declined to name a starting lineup but said he has stuck with two separate units in training camp. With starting forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson limited by injury, scrimmage starters have been D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, Caris LeVert, DeMarre Carroll and Allen. The second unit has been Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, Treveon Graham, Jared Dudley and Davis.