SALT LAKE CITY — During the Utah Jazz’s preseason, rookie first-round draft pick Grayson Allen played rather well, leaving some to believe he’d be a consistent part of head coach Quin Snyder’s rotation during the regular season.
Allen didn’t play at all during the Jazz’s first two games, but not only did he receive his first real NBA minutes Monday night in Utah’s 92-84 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies at Vivint Arena, but he entered the game at a critical juncture.
With 2:58 remaining in the third quarter, the Jazz trailed 62-54 and had scored just eight points in the frame when Snyder called on his fellow Duke product. Allen played the remainder of the quarter and then eight minutes of the fourth, finishing with seven points on a perfect 2-of-2 from the field (including a 3-pointer) and 2-of-2 from the free-throw line.
“We were having trouble scoring, trying to find a spark,” Snyder said. “It was a matter of time before he got an opportunity in some level, in some game. Tonight, we were looking for a spark.”
Allen independently used "spark" when asked about what he was hoping to accomplish when he first got in the game, specifically mentioning that his goal was to help Utah cut the lead before the end of the third quarter (he did that, as the Jazz trailed by seven after Mike Conley made a tough 3-pointer with a second remaining).
On a night when Utah was awful on the offensive end, Allen finished with a team-best plus-minus of six.
“I didn’t feel the same nerves that I had in the preseason games,” he said. “I was really just excited to be out there. Just been ready for whenever my opportunity was going to come from (Synder) and it came and I felt like I was ready for it. Some things I’ll learn from it offensively and defensively, but overall it was good. Happy to be in the NBA.”
After picking up two quick fouls, Allen scored his first points on a pair of free throws with 12.5 seconds left in the third quarter after getting fouled hard by fellow rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. while attacking the rim. He made his first 3-pointer with 5:23 left in the fourth and then skied high for a dunk with 1:20 remaining as the Jazz fought to stay in the game.
All were met with thunderous applause from a Vivint Arena crowd that didn’t otherwise have much to cheer about, especially in the second half.
“He’s great,” point guard Ricky Rubio said. “He stayed ready for the opportunity and he came ready and scored for us on a night when no one was really scoring.”3 comments on this story
As far as the learning Allen referenced, he specifically pointed to the two fouls he committed as things that halted any momentum Utah tried to get.
Allen recognizes the depth in the Jazz’s backcourt and that his role could be inconsistent, but he vowed to remain prepared for whenever Snyder yells, “Grayson!” like he did Monday.
“I’m just going to stay ready like I was tonight,” the rookie said. "There’ll be nights like it was (last Friday) against Golden State where I don’t get in and maybe nights like tonight where I get in. It’s up to me to just stay ready whenever my name is called.”