Las Vegas • On Saturday afternoon, Utah Jazz guard Grayson Allen found himself answering questions about his second scuffle with an opposing player in as many games.
He didn’t seem to particularly relish it.
And yet the former Duke Blue Devil, known as much for his gritty (and sometimes questionable) style as much as his shooting ability isn’t exactly about to change course. He’s made a college career of having an edge, of playing a competitive and fierce style. So why should the NBA be any different?
“I have to set the tone with myself where I have to know playing in the NBA as a rookie, guys are gonna get physical with you,” Allen said. “They’re gonna come at you, they’re gonna test you, they’re gonna see what you got. … You can’t back down. Once you back down, they see food and they just go right back at you again.”
In a 93-78 Jazz loss to Portland to open Las Vegas Summer League, Allen had 16 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals — another stat-stuffing performance to add to his previous games in Salt Lake City. He also shot at least a little better than in his first two efforts, going 6 for 17 from the field.
But what got everyone’s attention was a fourth-quarter play in which Trail Blazers guard Wade Baldwin, a two-year veteran, appeared to shove Allen in the face after the Jazz rookie was guarding him closely on a fast break. After a video review, Baldwin (Portland’s leading scorer with 20 points) was ejected from the game for a “hostile act.”
Allen seems to be a magnet for such scuffles, getting into one with Atlanta’s Trae Young on Thursday that made the sports talk circuit. With Allen’s history, which includes several ugly tripping incidents at Duke, he’s an obvious lightning rod for pundits whenever even mild incidents happen.
Even if Allen has said he’s matured and changed since college — and he has — the conversation around him is unlikely to change. And there will always be players who want to test him.
“[Players] definitely go at me,” Allen said. “I’ve dealt with that my entire life in basketball. That’s why I have the fight in me.”
After drafting Allen last month, the Jazz are less concerned about how many confrontations Allen gets into and more about how he moves past them. After Allen and Young received double technicals in Thursday’s game, the Jazz were pleased to see Allen maintain his intensity, taking key steals and a charge down the stretch of a Utah win.
The result was different Saturday, as the Jazz, already three games under their belt in Utah, started a new summer league at the Cox Pavilion. Allen said he didn’t know why Baldwin lashed out at him exactly.
He’ll deal with new confrontations as they come. But for Allen, the key is not to lose his edge — or his sight of what really matters.
“He’s aggressive,” said Tony Bradley, who had 16 points. “He doesn’t let no one push him around, and I respect that.”