SALT LAKE CITY — It wasn’t until roughly 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night when Grayson Allen finally exited Bruin Arena after a Salt Lake City Stars game only to be back up the next morning for a 10 a.m. shootaround with the Utah Jazz.
As an NBA rookie, Allen’s life would break the average 23-year-old.
He’s experienced it all from multi-game road trips to individual boos to seeing his former teammate Alec Burks get traded before a tipoff in Brooklyn to now splitting time between the Jazz and the Stars of the G League.
“Half days you wake up and you wish you were in bed for a couple more hours and half of the time you’re feeling fresh,” Allen admitted.
The former Duke University All-ACC talent posted 14 points in 39 minutes of a 108-102 Stars loss against the Austin Spurs in front of 953 fans on Dec. 11.
Then on Wednesday, he entered the game to cheers from the 18,306 members of the sellout crowd at Vivint Arena for Kyle Korver in the final 9:20 of the fourth quarter. Allen would finish with three points and one assist on 1-for-5 shooting during Utah’s 111-84 blow out victory against Miami.
“The crowd’s obviously different so it’s different not playing in a loud building but we’re playing basketball and I really love it,” Allen said of the Stars experience. “There’s a part of me that’s frustrated and I don’t mean that in a bad way, but frustrated that I’m not getting on the court because I want to play basketball so this is an opportunity to go out and play basketball and I can do some things here that you’re not going to have time to do with the Jazz during the season.”
Allen showed much promise in the preseason for the Jazz, even starting once in the regular season on Nov. 2 versus Memphis in place of an injured Donovan Mitchell, but knows he has to improve defensively to earn significant minutes for the Jazz. That’s where the G League assignments — he will suit up for the Stars again tonight vs. the Northern Arizona Suns at Vivint Arena — come into place because the 21st overall pick is able to receive in-game repetition where he checks his ego at the door.
In addition to improving defensively, he has to adjust to slight variations both on and off the ball as he’s trying to work on spacing plus corner shooting. Jazz coach Quin Snyder even offers direct suggestions to Stars coach Martin Schiller on what he wants to see from the first-year guard on that level.
“It was good to see Grayson get to go down and get to play and get to compete,” Snyder said. “Sometimes it’s just having a chance to compete in and of itself is a good thing for a player, not to mention your conditioning and all the things that come with it. Martin Schiller, obviously the coach of the Stars, is doing a terrific job. We’re very much connected as a program.”
Jazz forward Jae Crowder also showed up to offer pointers for Allen from the sidelines at Bruin Arena on the day after a road loss in Oklahoma City. Crowder has adopted Allen as his rookie and has taught him what it takes to thrive in the NBA with tips on routine, work ethic and suggestions for better living.
“It makes me like a proud father,” Crowder said of Allen’s development. “Once I see him mess up and I tell him what Coach wants from him and what we want as a team ... then to see him get better and do it, it makes you feel good.”
Still, Allen knows he has to get better if he wants to stick around in the NBA for years to come. However, he doesn’t see the G League stints as punishment but more so an opportunity as the Jazz prepare to face the Orlando Magic in Mexico City on Saturday.
Allen will likely add another first to his growing list of unique opportunities with the next international trip.
“We don’t get a lot of time to practice during the year because we’re playing so many games so this is even better than practice to get out here and get game reps with five on five the whole time not only for conditioning and shape but for your basketball instincts,” Allen said. “I haven’t played an extended period of five on five in a long time so it’s a really good opportunity and there’s quality guys in the G League to go up against. It’s not like going down. You’re playing against great competition.”