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Catching Up With Grayson Allen

Back in Durham, the former Blue Devil reflects on his rookie season

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Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Clippers
Former Duke star Grayson Allen getting instructions from Utah Jazz head coach (and also former Blue Devil) Quin Snyder

Grayson Allen wasn’t sure exactly when or exactly where but sometime in his rookie season with the Utah Jazz he had a surreal experience.

He was playing on the road, at the foul line and he heard, well he heard nothing.

“The weirdest thing to me, it actually caught me off guard a little bit, was shooting free throws on the road and it being quite. The first time It happened, it was almost like I missed it.”

Yes, Grayson Allen has moved on. He’s no longer Public Enemy Number One, just an NBA work-in-progress.

Allen has one pro season under belt, a season of learning and growing.

Allen says the biggest adjustment didn’t take place on the court.

“I got thrown right into travel right away. We had it pretty heavy from the start. We had a nine-day road trip to start off and another six-day one pretty soon after that. The biggest adjustment to me was just the amount of travel without a break. In the NBA, it’s just constantly going, play one game and get ready for the next. It’s a constant grind, a constant moving around. You have to be able to find your peace and quite.”

It didn’t help that Allen spent much of the season going back and forth from Utah to Utah’s G League team, the Salt Lake City Stars.

There was a time when playing in the G League was a demotion, maybe a career-ender.

But that was before the NBA teams developed formal player-development arrangements with G League teams, similar to what major-league and minor-league baseball has had for decades.

“Playing in the G League was a lot of fun and a great opportunity for me,” Allen says, “because I got to implement a lot of things I’d been working on and it gives me film, something to look at, where I can see things I’ve been working on in practice, work in the game. There were stretches at the end of the year when I was in four cities in four days in four games because I was just bouncing around between the G League and NBA games. That made it a little bit of a grind but I enjoyed the opportunity to play. It gave me another point to look at.”

Allen played 38 games for the Jazz, a dozen regular-season games for the Stars. He had a big playoff run for Salt Lake City and finished the regular season back in the NBA with a 40-point game in an overtime loss to the Clippers.

Yes, the game didn’t mean anything for playoff seeding and some stars rested. Still, 40 points in a regular-season NBA games is 40 points in a regular-season NBA game.

Allen ended the regular season averaging 5.6 points per game. He played 14 minutes in Utah’s first-round playoff loss to Houston.

He says he’s ready for a bigger role this season.

“I definitely think I got better. That was really my only goal. I tried not to put any pressure or expectation as far as playing time, stats and what that meant but for me I am proud of my first year because I can look at some of the games from the beginning of the year and some games at the end of the year and see improvement everywhere on the court, offensively and defensively.”

About that defense. NBA rookies tend to struggle on that end and Allen was no exception. But teammate Donovan Mitchell told the Salt Lake Tribune late last season that “his defense has improved tremendously since the beginning of the year. He’s made dramatic steps in that. His time will definitely come.”

Former Duke point guard Quin Snyder is Utah’s head coach and Allen says he loves Snyder’s style.

“With the way we run our offense, we push the ball up the court and get into something. We move the ball so well and coach Snyder has such an amazing basketball mind and we have so many things we can do. It helps to have a lot of guys out there who can be playmakers and that’s what I want to be, not tied to a position, just be a playmaker.”

Allen adds that when he and Snyder trade Duke war stories the theme usually is some variation on Coach K mellowing.

Allen is part of the #brotherhood and was back in Durham this week for the K Academy.

“It’s great to be back. It’s really cool that we have so many guys come back for this event and it makes it a lot of fun to catch up. I talked to a lot of the guys over the phone and text back and forth but it’s cool to be back together with all of them and with a lot of the guys I played with and to meet some of the guys who will be on this year’s team.”

Expect to see Allen back at Duke a lot. But first he’s got his second NBA season coming up and he knows he’s got work to do.

“I can feel myself getting better.”

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