SALT LAKE CITY, UT - APRIL 5: Grayson Allen #24 of the Utah Jazz dunks the ball against the Sacramento Kings on April 5, 2019 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Rookie Grayson Allen's career night is 'just the beginning'

by Aaron Falk

Grayson Allen is usually one of the first players dressed and out of the Utah Jazz locker room after games. But on Friday night, the rookie guard was among the last to leave.

And his teammates let him hear it.

“You go off and now you’re the last one locker room?” Donovan Mitchell said. “That’s crazy.”

“People change,” forward Joe Ingles said on his way out the door.

Allen shook his head. But the rookie’s teammates were right: Allen has definitely changed.

The shooting guard feels more confident and ready to contribute than ever, as his first regular season in the NBA draws to a close. And he proved it on Friday night, scoring a career-high 23 points in a 119-98 win over the Sacramento Kings.

“Overall, I’m happy about the way I played and happy about where I’m at now at the end of the year compared to the beginning of the year,” Allen said. “I still have in my mind plays that I did something wrong. Those stick out a little more to me. But overall, I’m very happy with the improvement I made.”

Allen set a career high on Wednesday night scoring 14 points in Phoenix. On Friday night, he had that number topped by halftime, thanks to an 8-for-8 start from the field.

“I think he let the game come to him,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “He obviously was shooting the ball with confidence. I like how he attacked the rim.”

When he was drafted late in the first round last June, the shooting guard knew he would have to earn any playing time he got.

“We’re a playoff team and it’s hard to have a rookie out there and play through mistakes,” he said.

But Allen embraced opportunities to play wherever he could get them, especially with the Salt Lake City Stars in the G League. In his last game with the Stars, Allen scored 37 points.

“I got a little rhythm,” he said.

And he has been able to carry that with him back into the NBA.

“Everything’s becoming more instinctual,” Allen said. “When you play and you don’t have to think, that’s when you’re playing real basketball.”

Allen finished the night with 10 makes on 14 attempts. Snyder, though, was just as impressed with the defensive strides the rookie has made.

“I just feel like he’s giving effort defensively and working,” the coach said. “He’s made that important. I like seeing him compete and that’s what he’s been doing. When you’re a good player and you do those things, good things happen.”

Mitchell, for all his teasing, is happy to see Allen’s changes, too.

“This is just the beginning,” Mitchell said. “You see the way he’s creating. You see the way he’s poised. There’s a lot more to come.”

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