When the Memphis Grizzlies traded Mike Conley to the Utah Jazz, the return that the Grizzlies received was more than satisfactory. With two 1st round picks, as well as a veteran leader in Jae Crowder, the Grizzlies were especially primed to accelerate their rebuild.
It only seemed like a delectable cherry on top that Grayson Allen was also apart of the deal. Although Allen didn’t show much in his rookie year, his presence in the deal almost made it seem like the Grizzlies were adding a third 1st round pick. After all, he was a national champion at Duke, a winner with pedigree who brings an alluring combination of scoring and playmaking.
He’s also a brat at times. A punk even. And there was no better example of this fact than the Grizzlies’ last game against the Boston Celtics in Vegas Summer League. The following play was Allen’s second flagrant in a seven-second period. He also has two technicals through three summer league games.
Grayson Allen gets ejected in an NBA Summer League game after his 2nd flagrant foul.— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) July 12, 2019
In all of my years of watching and covering NBA basketball, I can honestly say that I’ve never heard of a player receiving a flagrant foul in a summer league game, much less being ejected from one. And make no mistake, it was deserved—that windup on Grant Williams was disgraceful. But if it was ever going to be someone, it doesn’t shock a single soul that it would be Grayson Allen who became known for his penchant of dirty plays that could hurt someone and temper tantrums while at Duke.
That is in fact the problem.
It appears that Grayson Allen has not learned a single thing from his time at Duke. Even though he was hardly ever reprimanded outside of a one-game suspension in December 2016, every single coach at Duke certainly preached to him about the need to control himself. His parents probably did so as well. His agent likely did before the Jazz drafted him. He had to have heard the warnings of national analysts that his college antics would only earn him an ass-whipping at the NBA level.
But Grayson Allen obviously just doesn’t get it. There are no signs of growth, no signs of understanding—and if he hasn’t grown any to this point, then it’s very unlikely that he ever will. Although he’s still young and only entering his second NBA season, the Grizzlies need to really ask themselves if Allen’s talent is worthy of investment with his issues in mind.
To be sure, Memphis has shown itself to be a city where people can grow and become better. Zach Randolph entered Memphis as a lost soul and left as its favorite son. As the “island of misfit toys”, the Memphis Grizzlies themselves have crafted a reputation as a franchise where even the league’s irrelevant players have a chance to become icons.
However, there is a truth that is just as relevant in everyday life as it is in the NBA: People in the professional world are more than willing to give you a chance to grow and improve on your flaws—but only if your talent and what you bring to the table outweighs those same flaws.
For all of his personal troubles and reputation as a locker room cancer, Zach Randolph was still an extremely talented power forward that warranted the risk that the Grizzlies took at the time. And it was a risk that would eventually define the blue-collar identity of the city and give the Grizzlies their greatest run of success in franchise history.
Even Josh Jackson, whom site manager Joe Mullinax called broken for his personal failings, was still the number four overall pick in the NBA draft two years ago. He’s worth taking a flier on just for the chance of him possibly becoming a fraction of the two-way terror that many thought he could be.
While it doesn’t fully excuse his actions and behavior, it’s also worth noting that Randolph’s life both before and during his earlier NBA career was characterized by instability—a word that mostly applies to Josh Jackson as well. After finding a stable home in Memphis, Randolph became a model teammate and citizen known for his generosity. The jury is still out on whether something similar will happen to Jackson.
Grayson Allen, on the other hand, doesn’t have the excuse of instability. He comes from a life of privilege where he attended private school in Florida and graduated from one of the most prestigious universities in the country. He also doesn’t have the talent of a Zach Randolph or even a Josh Jackson, which makes him all the more expendable if his disgraceful “antics” continue.
There’s nothing even wrong with some questionable behavior on the court in a vacuum—players like Tony Allen, Patrick Beverley, and Randolph himself made an art form of it. However, players like these are enforcers who use their physicality to the point where it blurs the line between “gritty” and “dirty” as a means of subduing their opponents.
But Grayson Allen is no enforcer. He’s the kid on the playground that shoves you first and then tattles on you to your mom when you shove him back. And that’s the type of person that no one respects.
Of course, it would be unfair to portray Allen in a completely negative light.
This is the same Grayson Allen that has never been in any legal trouble whatsoever. The same Grayson Allen who made it a priority to visit a dying fan hospitalized at Duke while he was still in the middle of his junior season. The same Grayson Allen who was made a team captain at Duke, placing him in a pantheon of college greats. By all accounts, he appears to be a quality individual off the court, a person who is capable of great good.
But his personal decency doesn’t matter if he can’t consistently exemplify it while he’s on the court.
For Allen’s marriage with the Memphis Grizzlies to flourish, the coaching staff and front office will have to hold him accountable in a way that Mike Krzyzewski never did. Head coach Taylor Jenkins and Zachary Kleiman should present a united front to Allen and his agent. The message should be clear: “There will be a zero-tolerance for any type of dirty play from you. If you mess up again, then we will immediately waive you and give you your plane ticket to Europe.”
Although he appears to be a model person off the court, it also seems that Grayson Allen is broken in his own way. Memphis is the land of opportunity, and Allen will still have an opportunity to show that he can restrain his worst tendencies and possible anger issues.
But if he fails to do so, Memphis very well may be the last opportunity that he receives in the NBA.