LAS VEGAS — Considering that Jarrett Allen started the final 31 games for the Nets as a rookie and led all rookies with a .589 field-goal percentage and 1.2 blocks per game, his participation in Summer League games might seem like an unnecessary risk. But the Summer League is like an incubator, and after sitting out last year with an injury, this is an opportunity for Allen to go from a supporting role to a lead role.
Allen and third-year wing Caris LeVert participated in every Summer League workout while sitting out the first two games, and Allen had eight points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots in the Nets’ 78-69 loss to the Timberwolves on Monday night.
Trying to have a more vocal presence is the next step in Allen’s development. “I’m trying to be a leader and teach the first-year people how to be a pro,” he said earlier. “I’m trying to be able to come out of my comfort zone. This is like the perfect place to practice to be a leader so I’m able to bring that skill back to the Brooklyn Nets.”
LeVert said the growth in Allen’s self-confidence is obvious after he averaged 8.2 points and 5.4 rebounds, including 10.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and .621 shooting as a starter down the stretch.
“He’s learned the offense a little bit better, too,” LeVert said. “He’s talking guys through possessions. That’s definitely something he wasn’t doing last year. He’s a lot more vocal.”
Describing Allen’s low-key presence as a rookie, LeVert said: “Quiet is an understatement. He was near mute.”
Allen brushed off any suggestion that he might develop an in-your-face style but acknowledged the need to grow into his role as the future franchise center. “I’m just trying to get a little more leadership, come out of my shell a little bit more,” he said. “You hear it all the time: You can’t become better if you stay the same. It’s just one of those tiny things I’m trying to improve on.”
From the beginning of his Nets career, it’s as if Allen has taken a calculated approach. As a rookie, he sat back and absorbed everything he could from the veterans and the coaching staff and made step-by-step improvements in his ability to finish and run the pick-and-roll. He led the Nets with 117 dunks, which was 14th in the NBA.
Allen said he told general manager Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson that he wanted to lead the Summer League team along with Le Vert. Top assistant Jacque Vaughn, who is coaching the Summer League team, likes what he’s seen from Allen.
“It’s been great to see,” Vaughn said, “whether it is being the first guy in the trainer’s room, whether it’s being the last guy out getting treatment, the professionalism that came with having a year under his belt, whether it’s pulling a guy aside and saying, ‘This is the correct spacing offensively.’ We’ve seen all of that these few days.”
It is the measure of Allen’s intelligence and maturity that he also understands that leadership of a group as culturally diverse as the Nets’ Summer League team requires sensitivity. The roster includes five non-Americans plus an American who plays for the Puerto Rican national team.
“Being the leadership, we don’t want to totally assert ourselves on the people coming from overseas because they know stuff that we don’t know,” Allen said. “We want to take what they’re doing and be able to have an open mind to what they want to do. Like, you don’t want to totally close them off because they were stars overseas for a reason. Then they come over here and we can learn something from them, too.”
That’s the definition of leadership.