Jarrett Allen and DeAndre Jordan Have Been Potent Pair at Center

Jordan's status "day-to-day" with ankle sprain as Nets prep for road trip

Through seven games, the Brooklyn Nets have been staying flexible with their center position, with returning starter Jarrett Allen starting four games and newly arrived, three-time All-NBA pick DeAndre Jordan starting three.

They’ve gotten solid numbers out of the duo. Playing almost precisely 48 minutes per game — 27.1 for Allen and 21.1 for Jordan — they’re combining to average 19.0 rebounds and 15.1 points while shooting 60.2 percent. Their board numbers are at the forefront of Brooklyn ranking second in the NBA in both rebounds per game (49.9) and rebounding percentage (53.4).

“I love those guys,” said Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson. “I just think, I told them the other day, I think they’re elite rim protectors. They’re rim rollers, they’re rebounders, I like where we are with that. In fact, sometimes we worry that Jarrett isn’t starting, but Jarrett’s been really good dealing with it. He’s got progress to make, like any typical young guy, but I like what I see right now from those two.”

The load may shift to Allen’s shoulders a bit at the start of Brooklyn’s upcoming five-game road trip, as Atkinson has described Jordan’s status as “day-to-day” after he suffered a sprained ankle in Monday night’s win against New Orleans.

If Jordan is to miss a game or have his minutes limited and the Nets look for a third center, options range from a smaller lineup with 6-foot-7 forward Taurean Prince sliding over — an alignment Brooklyn has used briefly this season — or looking toward two players who have yet to play this season; two-way player Henry Ellenson and rookie Nic Claxton.

With the G League Long Island Nets opening their season on Saturday, Atkinson said both players would be traveling with Brooklyn, which opens its road trip Friday night in Portland.

“We’re gonna have to figure that out,” said Atkinson. “We’re talking about it now. I think we can go some different ways with that backup position. I think Nic Claxton, he’s gonna have to play some, depending on how long DeAndre’s out. I think Nic, he understands what we’re doing. We love his talent. At some point, he’ll get a shot.”

The 6-foot-10 Ellenson offers some of a stretch-5 shooting dynamic that the Nets traditionally haven’t gotten from the position over the last few years, while the 6-foot-11 Claxton displayed explosiveness and aggressiveness during preseason minutes.

“Nic, I was in the same position he was,” said Allen. “The rookie coming in, the young guy, whole world ahead of him. I'm not saying I'm DeAndre right now but Nic is going to come in, bring a lot of energy, he's going to play hard and get himself ready for the future. Henry is a great shooter, he's going to space the floor he knows where he needs to be and he's going to help a lot.”

In the opening two weeks of his third season, Allen’s rebounds are up to 9.7 per game from 8.4 last year and 5.4 as a rookie. Through seven games, Allen’s defensive rating is 102.8, compared with 111.6 last year.

Allen and Atkinson credit some of the improvement to the arrival of Jordan, a two-time All-Defensive First Team selection.

“I think just playing against his physicality, competing against him, and then the communication,” said Atkinson. “DeAndre is an elite communicator, he’s like a quarterback of the defense. It’s kind of J.A.’s improvement area, to be a better communicator defensively.”

“I think last year I struggled with talking,” said Allen. “I was being silent on defense. But now I've seen a big jump for myself.”

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