It’s the most important affirmation for anyone who comes out of the minors. You toil through the small cities and small gyms with small crowds, staying in hotels, hoping it’s one with a free breakfast just to save on the small per diem.
All of it just to hear a coach at the highest level tell you that you belong.
With 29 games at the NBA level under his belt, Kadeem Allen might have already felt it, but on Friday night in San Antonio, David Fizdale put it on record.
“He’s a player,” Fizdale said of Allen. “He’s an NBA player.”
Allen was re-called from Westchester after Dennis Smith Jr. was sidelined with a sore back. He flew in from New York, arrived at the hotel around 1:30 a.m. and picked up right where he left off about a month ago. Allen had 16 points and three assists off the bench for the Knicks (13-56) in the loss to the Spurs.
“I’m living it up and doing the best I can,” Allen said, “and just trying to control what I can control.”
When Allen was signed to a two-way contract in January, it was merely a transaction note. The Knicks had their two-way available, after rookie Allonzo Trier was signed to a full NBA contract, and the decision to give it to Allen was based to ensure the security of depth at the guard position at the NBA level in case of an injury. Allen, in his second pro season, played well in the G-League with the Westchester Knicks. He earned it.
In late January, Emmanuel Mudiay suffered a shoulder injury, which opened up a need for a guard on the NBA roster. Allen made his Knicks debut Jan. 28 in Charlotte and put up eight points, five rebounds and three assists in 18:07. By the end of his ten game stint, which led into the All-Star break, Allen was posting double-figures in scoring each night and had a career-high 25 points at Cleveland on Feb. 11.
Many fans wanted to see more from Allen, but once Mudiay was healthy, Allen was sent back to help Westchester clinch a playoff berth. In 39 games with the Dub-Knicks, he’s scoring 15.3 points, 6.3 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game while shooting 45.1% from the field and 42.5% from three-point range.
Allen may only be in his second year as a pro, but, at 26, he’s not your typical raw prospect. He’s older than most of the players on the Knicks roster and plays a throwback game. Allen is adept at bullying his way into the paint. He has a good shooting touch and has good court vision to find teammates off of his dribble drives. He is also a very capable defender at the NBA level and was named to the All-Defensive Team in the G-League last year.
After his performance in San Antonio, Allen is building an NBA resume, too. Over his last five games, he’s averaging 16.4 points and 5.6 assists while shooting 56.1% from the field. He’s made 7 of 11 from downtown over that span. It’s enough to catch the attention of his coach, who made it clear that even if he’s sent back to Westchester, he should consider himself ready for the NBA.
“I put the work in, I put the time in,” Allen said, “and it’s just paying off.”
– The Spurs avenged the embarrassing 130-118 loss to the Knicks on Feb. 24 at the Garden, which snapped the 18-game home losing streak. San Antonio’s defense was much better in this matchup, as they stifled the Knicks to 40.9% shooting from two-point range and just 36 Points in the Paint. Meanwhile, the Spurs scored 48 points in the paint — led by LaMarcus Aldridge’s 18 points and 11 rebounds — and shot a sizzling 60% from two-point range.
– DeAndre Jordan finished with 11 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists, one assist shy of a triple-double. It was the second time this season Jordan missed his first career triple-double by one assist. On Oct. 28, while playing for the Mavericks, Jordan had 12 points, 19 rebounds and nine assists against the Utah Jazz. Fizdale left Jordan in the game late in the fourth quarter, despite the blowout, to get him a chance at recording one more assist but it wasn’t happening. He finally checked out of the game with 90 seconds left. Are we seeing a new dimension of his game? Jordan has had consecutive games with five or more assists and it was his seventh game this season with at least five assists. Before this season, he had a total of two games with five or more assists.
– Mitchell Robinson had just two points and missed all three of his field goal attempts, but he still grabbed 10 rebounds and had two blocks and a steal in 20:36. Robinson continued his multiple blocks streak to 17 straight games and made it 26 straight games with at least one block. He’s two shy of Patrick Ewing‘s rookie mark for consecutive games with at least one block. The last time Robinson played a game and failed to record a blocked shot was three months ago.
– Noah Vonleh landed awkwardly after a dunk in the second quarter and appeared to roll his right ankle on someone’s foot. He limped off the court in obvious pain. The team said he suffered a right ankle injury and he did not return for the second half. Fizdale after the game said Vonleh would be undergoing more tests when the team returned to New York.
– Next up are the plummeting Lakers (31-38) in a St. Patrick’s Day matinee at the Garden. LeBron James sat out the Lakers’ loss in Detroit on Friday for “load management” in the second game of a back-to-back, is expected to play. He wouldn’t miss his only trip to his favorite road arena, would he?
[Watch the Knicks and Lakers Battle it out at The Garden Sunday at 12:30 PM on MSG & MSG GO.]