CHARLOTTE — Grayson Allen entered the game late in the fourth quarter for Alec Burks on Nov. 19 at Indiana’s Bankers Life Fieldhouse with just 4:33 remaining.
With the Jazz already trailing by 24 points to the Pacers when he checked in, a harmony of boos showered the arena every time the former Duke star touched the ball or his name was announced.
The Jazz would go on to lose 121-94, but the rookie guard found humor in the situation as he finished with five points on 2-for-5 shooting.
“It is funny,” Allen recalled.
“The Indiana one was funny because Duke played Indiana (Tuesday night) and so I was kind of reminded of that last year,” he added. “I saw a bunch of stuff on Twitter from last year’s game, but the booing has happened in like three cities now.”
Indiana and Sacramento were the most recent fans to boo the Jazz rookie, but as Allen returns to the state of North Carolina to face the Charlotte Hornets Friday, he’s not sure what to expect.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Allen said. “I think I’ll have a lot of people there so I think that’ll be cool.
“You’re gonna get booed again,” Gobert said as he jokingly interrupted his interview in the visitors locker room after Wednesday’s win at Brooklyn.
“I’m definitely going to get booed,” Allen responded, grinning. “I know outside of Durham, there’s not many Duke fans. It’s all (North Carolina), but it’ll be cool to be back in Carolina.”
Allen spent four seasons at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, from 2014-18, winning a national title in 2015 — which is at least two hours away from Charlotte’s Spectrum Center. Questions of his dirty play lingered throughout his pre-draft process, stemming from several tripping incidents at Duke, but the Jazz ultimately decided to select him 21st overall in the 2018 NBA draft.
His role has largely decreased from being a college All-American to now playing 10.5 minutes per game as a Jazzman, but the fans can’t seem to let go of his past — in a positive or negative way.
“I guess it’s a Duke thing,” said Derrick Favors, Allen’s Jazz teammate. “Tell you the truth, honestly I don’t know. I guess they just hold on to it. I guess Indiana is just one of those towns where they just really care about basketball.
“On the road games, they boo him a lot but he takes it as motivation to just come in there and play hard.”
When he’s not being booed, there’s also been a bunch of fans attending road games in Allen’s No. 3 Blue Devils jersey, like 11-year-old Sadie Knight who traveled all the way from Mobile, Alabama to see her favorite player face the New Orleans Pelicans on Oct. 27.
The middle school baller says she likes him so much because “he came from Duke.”
Allen is currently averaging 4.6 points on 34.5 percent shooting and even earned one start in the absence of Donovan Mitchell (right hamstring strain) on Nov. 2 versus Memphis. He’s still trying to find his niche for the squad, but character issues certainly haven’t been an issue as he’s bonded with teammates Donovan Mitchell and Jae Crowder.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder has challenged him to defend better in transition, but he also brings other strong qualities to the hardwood, especially with helping space the floor when he gets opportunities.
“Certainly Grayson, his ability to shoot and I think his aggressiveness,” Snyder said. “He has a quick release and his willing to take a shot is something that all our guys appreciate and we have great confidence in him.”
Love him or hate him, Allen has grown accustomed to the booing through the years.3 comments on this story
Initially he despised being depicted as a college villain, but eventually learned to accept it and now the end result is spilling over into his professional basketball career where he draws mixed emotions despite a limited role.
“When it happens, I don’t notice it until someone else says it because I’m so used to it,” Allen said of hearing boos. “Like if I’m on the road, I’m going to get booed so it’s almost like normal, but the Indiana one was probably the loudest. When it happened at Indiana, it was just like kind of how it’s been for three years. It’s kind of comfortable almost.