The Brooklyn Nets gave out Jarrett Allen growth charts to the young fans attending their game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Super Bowl Sunday afternoon. A promotional souvenir given to endear and cultivate the increasing number of fans that their 6-foot-11, 19-year-old rookie center is gaining. With his signature, the charts could one day become collectors’ items, but Allen’s play and his growth as a player is beginning to give him the kind of recognition that promotional items can’t give a player—respect within the NBA.
Allen has been an important contributor for Brooklyn and has made some memorable offensive and defensive plays to benefit the team. A one-on-one battle against former Nets center Brook Lopez, now with the Los Angeles Lakers, would make an Allen highlight reel. Allen blocked the veteran center’s lay-up attempt late in the game Friday night at Barclays Center, eliminating a Laker possession. A quick, low post fake, up-and-under shot against center Clint Capela of the Houston Rockets, like the block, received a huge “Ohhh” from the Brooklyn crowd.
“He’s long and athletic,” noted Lakers head coach Luke Walton, a former player and son of Hall of Fame center Bill Walton. Further critiquing Allen, Walton surmised, “Seemed like he has some good footwork down there, and he makes you pay. He puts a lot of pressure on your defense.”
“He’s playing great basketball, and he gets better with every game,” said Kenny Atkinson, the Nets head coach. “I can’t wait until he spends a summer in the weight room and starts to get stronger.”
Atkinson has been starting the rookie, giving him more and more playing time and leaving Allen in the game during crucial moments, and at crunch time.
“Coach is starting to trust me more in the crunch time, in the important part of the game,” said Allen, who turns 20 in April. “Me being in there, you can tell there is trust.”
Trust—and some added consistency and punch to Brooklyn’s scoring.
Allen, drafted last year in the offseason out of Texas, dropped a career-high 20 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals in 24 minutes of play against Los Angeles, two nights after tying his 16-point career high with 12 rebounds, a double-double in 26 minutes against the Philadelphia 76ers, a needed contribution to help end Brooklyn’s four-game losing streak at the end of January. Add 16 Sunday against Milwaukee and 16 Tuesday night against the Houston Rockets. Allen is contributing to the Nets with high percentage shots—low post jumpers, dunks and lay-ups. And he’s progressing against teams with major, high-profile players on the floor: Joel Embed and Ben Simmons with Philly; Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe with Milwaukee; Karl Anthony-Townes, Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler with Minnesota; and Chris Paul and James Harden with Houston.
“We’re very excited about him,” said Atkinson. “He’s doing it on both ends, too. You can already see him maturing. He’s already getting stronger.”
Allen will have three more showcases before the Nets shut it down for the NBA all-star break: the New Orleans Pelicans Saturday evening, the L.A. Clippers Monday and the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night, Valentine’s Day.