The moment for Jarrett Allen’s NBA debut arrived with 5:59 left in the second quarter of the Nets’ home opener against Orlando Friday night at Barclays Center. When he heard coach Kenny Atkinson call his name, a jolt of electricity surged through Allen’s 6-11 frame.
“When you get called off the bench, your world just gets flipped upside down because you’re chilling on the side,” Allen said. “Once you get back in the flow, it’s fine.”
At 19 years and 182 days, Allen became the second youngest to ever play for the Nets behind Derrick Favors (19 years, 104 days). And within moments, the Nets’ first-round pick out of Texas was going to the hoop for consecutive dunks off feeds from Allen Crabbe and D’Angelo Russell that had fans chanting Allen’s name. He finished with nine points on 3-for-3 shooting (all dunks), two rebounds and one block.
More impressive was that Atkinson felt comfortable going with Allen to start the fourth quarter, and he delivered another pick-and-roll dunk and provided rim protection. “I didn’t think I’d get in at the beginning of the fourth quarter,” Allen said. “That’s when it hit me, like, ‘Wow, I’m playing.’ I was in there for a while, too. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be in there, but I knew personally that I could play at that time.”
Atkinson has appreciated Allen since he first saw him on videotape before the draft, but it was nice to get confirmation. “I think it comes from the confidence, just his demeanor,” Atkinson said. “I told him before the game “’Be ready.’ And he goes, ‘Coach, I’ll be ready.’ And then after the game he told me ‘Coach, I told you I was going to be ready.’ And not in a cocky way, just matter-of-fact.”
Allen’s teammates were impressed, too. “He wasn’t scared of the moment,” Trevor Booker said. “He stepped right in and gave us big minutes.”
Allen understands he’s heading into an adjustment period, but he proved something to himself against the Magic. “It’s definitely more confidence because I know I belong here now,” Allen said Saturday after practice. “Having a game where I felt comfortable, it’s like I know I can be out there playing with those guys.”