First-day jitters aside, Jazz say rookie Grayson Allen ‘just knows how to play’

For all his reputation as the latest in a long line of smarmy, arrogant agitators from Duke, rookie guard Grayson Allen readily admitted that, on his first day of practice with the Utah Jazz, the butterflies in his stomach were doing quite a number on him.

By Day 2, though, things were apparently better.

“Yeah, I was a lot less nervous today. I was definitely really nervous going into [the first day of training camp],” he said Wednesday at the team’s training facility. “But honestly, it’s all gone pretty well so far. Everyone’s helping me out getting through all the terminology, the speed of things, and all that. It’s a pretty smooth adjustment right now.”

His new basketball family concurs.

Veteran forward Joe Ingles noted that Allen has come in with a level of poise unusual for a first-year player.

“He just knows how to play. I don’t know if that’s four years in college or just him, but he plays the right way,” Ingles said. “He plays hard. His passion to win and compete is at a super-high level.”

For certain portions of practice, the No. 21 pick in the 2018 NBA draft has been paired in a group with star second-year guard Donovan Mitchell and forward Jae Crowder.

Both agree that, even with a small sample size, they’ve seen a lot they like.

Mitchell, on media day, said what he’d studied of Allen showed him someone who wasn’t afraid of the moment.

“He has that poise, and I was definitely impressed by watching him. He’s not fazed by a lot, and that’ll definitely pay dividends down the line when we get to the playoffs,” Mitchell said. “… When you draft someone, you want someone who, when the lights come on, they’re ready for it. He’s probably one of the best-prepared college basketball players, and you can see that for sure.”

Crowder, meanwhile, said after Tuesday’s first practice that, if Allen was as nervous as he claimed, he at least wasn’t seeing it, calling his play “aggressive.”

“He’s having fun. For sure, more calm and focused than I was my first training camp practice, which is good to see out of a rookie,” Crowder added. “Not overwhelmed at all.”

For his part, Allen said those two players have been particularly helpful, with Crowder giving useful feedback on what he’s doing well and what he can improve upon, and Mitchell providing empathetic support.

“Donovan’s been helping me a lot just with the transition to being a rookie. Little things,” he said. “He went through it last year, so he can probably tell [by] whatever look I have on my face what I’m probably thinking, or if I’m shocked by something. He’s always available to give me advice.”

In the meantime, the 6-foot-5 Allen is focusing on getting the copious amounts of new terminology down, and adjusting to changes in play — how to adjust to ball screens, making different reads, developing more types of shots toward the rim. Wednesday’s three-hour-plus marathon practice, on the other hand, required no real change in mindset.

“Wasn’t that bad,” Allen said with a chuckle. “I just came from four years of Coach K practices,” he added, referencing legendary Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Whether he earns a significant role in the rotation remains to be seen, considering the Jazz’s backcourt has plenty of talent and experience in Mitchell, Ricky Rubio, Dante Exum, Alec Burks, and Raul Neto.

But head coach Quin Snyder said Wednesday it was clear already, though, that “his teammates have really embraced him. And when you get that, it gives you confidence.”

Which is not to say they’re above messing with him.

“Ricky today, there was a play that he was supposed to run, and Ricky pulled out and had Grayson run the point, and he didn’t know the play yet,” Snyder recalled. “Being able to deal with that, he’s doing good.”



At Vivint Smart Home Arena

When • Saturday, 7 p.m.

TV • None