Back in a gym, back in a jersey. No autographs. No posterboard of his own smiling face.
This, Grayson Allen said Friday, is more like it.
“It feels real now that I’m out there,” Allen said, “wearing the jersey.”
The first-round draft pick of the Utah Jazz looked a little relieved to be getting to work as the team began its practices for Utah Summer League, which opens on Monday. Allen will be one of the most-watched (and possibly scrutinized) players as the new guy in town, a four-year player at Duke who will want to show off his shooting ability.
But still, it’s only Allen’s first day in the gym: As much as he wants to show his basketball chops next week in Vivint Smart Home Arena, he also needs some time for even more basic things — like learning his teammates’ names.
“I’m not really trying to prove anything, just want to play with them, form a relationship with them, become good teammates,” Allen said. “You get some chemistry going, get to talking. It’s a lot different talking off the court than when you’re playing with each other, encouraging each other and you learn each other’s personalities better out there.”
Allen’s also getting accustomed to the Jazz playbook, which will run him in different actions and sets than at Duke. In college, he was often a ball-dominant player, but that’s less likely in the NBA — an adjustment Allen said he’s looking forward to, but may still take some time to learn.
Assistant Mike Wells, who is coaching the Jazz Summer League Team next week, said Allen has the right tools, including maturity, to handle everything being thrown at him.
“He’s a mature player for a rookie,” he said. “He’s been in so many big games and so many big situations. He’s a really smart player. He’s learning on the fly just like the rest of the players here.”
For some, the learning curve is much shorter: Tony Bradley, Georges Niang, Erik McCree and Naz Mitrou-Long all have Jazz experience from last season. Wells said the coaching staff is seeking improvement from that group, which could be competing for roster spots this fall.