Allen Runs the Point with Natural Ease in First NBA Start
MILWAUKEE – Just about every player on the Boston Celtics’ roster has had to step into a prominent role at some point this season, and Tuesday night, it was Kadeem Allen’s turn.
Allen entered the night with very little NBA experience, having logged just 39 career minutes up until that point. That didn't matter, however, as coach Brad Stevens, dealing with multiple backcourt injuries, called upon the rookie to make his first-ever start against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center.
The added responsibility placed quite a bit of pressure onto Allen’s shoulders, but he looked like a natural running the point for Boston, while it fought the Bucks all the way to the finish, before falling, 106-102.
“I was always prepared,” Allen told Celtics.com after the game. “Watching guys like Terry (Rozier) and Shane (Larkin) play, they prepared me all year for this. It was cool to be out there.”
Allen seized his opportunity right out of the gate, scoring Boston’s first bucket 56 seconds into the game on a spinning, floating jumper. He followed that up one minute later by showing off his playmaking skills, as he drove to the basket and then dished a bounce-pass to Aron Baynes who rose up for a standing dunk.
“Being thrown into the fire like that, Kadeem was very poised,” said veteran teammate Al Horford. “He ran our team well and that was encouraging to see because he’s never really played with us, especially with the first group. And I believe that the more time that he gets, the more confident he’ll be.”
The faith that Allen’s teammates had in him was vital for his own confidence. His spirit was boosted just by knowing that they had his back, and that enabled him to quickly get rid of his pregame jitters.
“My teammates and coaches lifted me up the whole game and told me to just play my game, and if I make mistakes to just keep playing,” said Allen, who finished with two points, two assists, a rebound and a steal over 23 minutes of action. “So that’s what I went out there and did.”
There were actually very few mistakes on Allen’s end, as he turned the ball over just once all game long. That’s an incredible feat for a primary ball handler to pull off in his first career start.
“Being a point guard, [I’m] just trying to take care of the ball,” said Allen. “My college coach (Sean Miller) was always hard on me about turning it over (at the University of Arizona). I told myself, once I get to the next level, to just take care of the ball and look out for my teammates by getting them open.”
Where Allen truly shined, however, was on the defensive end. He was always in the right position and stayed on top of his counterpart Eric Bledsoe throughout the game.
Jaylen Brown is familiar with the difficult position that Bledsoe was in, having played against Allen a couple of times during his days at Cal-Berkeley.
“Kadeem is a dog, man,” Brown said with a shake of his head and a smile. “Ever since his Pac-12 days at Arizona, I couldn’t stand going up against Kadeem because of his ball pressure and his tenacity. He’s just like a cornerback out there. That’s what he brings. And then on offense, once he feels comfortable he’s just going to continue to build, continue to grow because he can play. He can really hoop.”
Although on this night, the Celtics didn’t ask Allen to do too much on the offensive end. The team didn’t want to overwhelm him by having him take on too many responsibilities at once, so they just asked him to keep things simple and play his game.
“We don’t need him to try to be Terry, or Kyrie (Irving) or Shane,” said Stevens. “We just need him to be Kadeem and to play to his strengths, and I thought he did that really well. I thought he was a real plus tonight.”
Making such a noticeable impact in his first NBA start was a dream come true for Allen, especially after all of the hard work he had put in order to put himself in such a position.
“You work your whole life to play basketball,” said Allen. “And then when you get a chance to start in the NBA, it’s like the hard work is finally starting to pay off a little bit.”