There was a moment in Duke’s 81-64 win at Boston College when Mike Krzyzewski was worried.
Midway through the first half, Grayson Allen picked off a bounce pass from the Eagles’ Jerome Robinson (a Broughton High grad). He gathered the ball and raced down the left sideline, and he didn’t stop until he elevated at Duke’s basket and finished with a right-handed slam. After the ball passed through the cylinder, it bounced off Allen’s left forearm and flew into the crowd. Allen belly-flopped awkwardly onto the floor, and he hit his face on the hardwood. The whole sequence looked dangerous in real-time, and Allen was slow to get off the floor.
“That one in the first half, I thought he was hurt on it,” Krzyzewski said. “But that’s the way he plays.”
Considering that Duke currently has just six rotation players, an injury to any one of them – let alone the most productive one – would be catastrophic. But Allen was able to shake off the impact during the ensuing media timeout and did not need to come out of the game.
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That dunk, by the way, gave Duke its first lead, 13-12. The Blue Devils led the rest of the way.
“Grayson plays such a physical game,” Krzyzewski said. “He either usually gets knocked to the floor, or he falls to the floor because of his Herculean plays that he makes.
“Stuff like that, that’s who he is. Such a unique, good player. A really good player.”
While that reckless abandon might create some hold-your-breath collisions, Krzyzewski would never encourage Allen to tone it down.
“I think you have a greater chance of getting hurt by tempering your natural instincts,” Krzyzewski said.
The key for Allen will be taking his recovery time seriously and genuinely giving his body a rest outside of practices and games. And he’s a smart guy, so he knows it.
“Everything I’m doing has to be something that is helping me get better basketball-wise,” Allen said after scoring 33 points in Duke’s win over Long Beach State. “When I’m around here, the recovery that I’m getting. When I’m at home, the rest that I’m getting. I can’t be doing anything extra outside of basketball that is going to hurt me.”
Allen is Duke’s most-used offensive player, according to statistician Ken Pomeroy. He is also Duke’s most efficient offensive player. In less technical terms, he is Duke’s bus driver, the alpha male that makes the team go. No one is more important to the Blue Devils’ success. So it’s easy to understand why his fall had Krzyzewski worried.