Brooklyn Nets' Jarrett Allen Ready to Step Back in at Center

With Nets shorthanded up front, starting role beckons again for third-year big man

When the Brooklyn Nets tip off again to restart the season in Orlando at the end of the month, expect to see Jarrett Allen back at center court for the opening tip.

Allen had started 58 of 64 games this season after starting all 80 games he played in 2018-19. He had moved into the starting lineup midway through his rookie season in 2017-18 and started the final 31 games he played that season.

He had come off the bench in Brooklyn’s final two games before the season was suspended, with veteran DeAndre Jordan moving into the starting lineup on March 8 against Chicago. But Jordan has tested positive for COVID-19 and opted out of participating when the NBA season resumes at Walt Disney World.

“I’ve made a staple for myself as to what I can do in the NBA,” said Allen. “DeAndre’s out as we heard. I wish him the best. I want him to get healthy and recover well. For me, I’ve been in this position before. In the playoffs, rookie year I was the main big playing and then last year when Ed (Davis) got hurt I had the load, and then this year this happened. I just need to come out and prove that I’m able to play at this level again.”

With rookie Nic Claxton out for the remainder of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery, Allen is currently the only available center on the roster, pending any other additions. And the Nets are also going to be without veteran forward Wilson Chandler, who had also moved into the starting lineup just before the season was stopped. With Chandler opting out as well, the Nets are thin in the frontcourt.

“There is some pressure,” said Allen. “I don’t want to say I’m the last big standing, as bad as that sounds. There is some pressure for me to be able to stay healthy and be able to help the team succeed.”

Allen averaged 10.6 points and 9.5 rebounds over Brooklyn’s first 64 games while shooting 64.6 percent. The scoring average was similar to what he posted in his second season, but he was averaging nearly a rebound more per game, while his percentage was significantly up from the 59.0 of 2018-19.

His move to the bench was part of an eventful period for the Nets as the season came to a halt. The 104-102 win in Los Angeles over the Western Conference leading Lakers in their final game made it four wins in five games, but they were also coming off a coaching change and some starting lineup shuffles beyond the move at center.

“When they shut down, the season was getting crazy for the Nets,” said Allen. “When they shut down, it was kind of good to take a step back and recalibrate. After a while, you start itching to get a sweat going. The Nets, we’re lucky enough to have a bike and some weights in our apartment, so I was able to be able to stay in shape during that. And then once voluntary workouts started coming back, I was in the gym Monday through Friday.”

As the Nets take another step back toward competition with expanded workouts at HSS Training Center before they depart for Orlando next Tuesday, Allen is optimistic about what the team can accomplish, and about the ability of all involved to manage an unprecedented scenario relative to the coronavirus.

“It’s Disney and the NBA,” said Allen. “I believe they’re going to make the best situation they can. They’re going to try to keep us as healthy as possible. I did question myself whether it’s worth risking my health, but at the end of the day, I think weighing the options, it’s better for me to go. I’m not too concerned about the health portion.”

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