‘They will grow up quick’: Grit-n-Grind OG Tony Allen after Grizzlies’ loss to Jazz

  • Award-winning columnist and author
  • Recipient of Basketball Hall of Fame Curt Gowdy Media Award
  • Joined ESPNBoston.com in 2010

In the hours leading up to the Memphis Grizzlies’ Game 1 playoff matchup with the league’s top overall seed, the Utah Jazz, Tony Allen sent his protégé De’Anthony Melton a text.

“I got a good feeling about tonight,” he told the young guard.

Allen should know. The former Grit-n-Grind star has immersed himself in all things Grizzlies, serving as the director of player development for the team’s G League Memphis Hustle since last January in addition to serving as a team ambassador representing the parent club in the community. Yet the duty he treasures most is one gifted to him by head coach Taylor Jenkins, who asked the former six-time All-Defense selection to mentor young players, including Melton, on the value of defensive excellence.

If the play-in tournament had not existed, Memphis would be home watching playoff action as the No. 9 seed in the West. But a thrilling win over Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors advanced them as decided underdogs against the Jazz. Even before they upended Utah in Game 1, 112-109, Allen was bullish on his team because of their physical skills, cohesiveness and fearlessness.

“We play with a carefree spirit,” Allen says. “Our mindset was ‘Seek and destroy.’ Our swagger was up. Those guys aren’t afraid of nobody.”

Allen agreed to join ESPN to watch and break down Game 2 of the Jazz-Grizzlies series. He predicted the return of Donovan Mitchell would cause a major shift in how the Jazz would space the floor. The 24-year-old star missed Game 1 when Utah’s training staff held him out because of an ankle injury that caused him to miss the final 16 games of the regular season.

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