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Allen Crabbe Happy as a Clam with Portland Return Looming

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Crabbe returns to play in Portland as a key piece of the Brookyn Nets.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Brooklyn Nets Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

At 7:00 on Friday night, Allen Crabbe will hear is name called in the Moda Center without PA announcer Mark Mason’s usual fervor. Opposing players don’t get the same introduction, the same applause that follows “And here comes your HOOOME TEEEEEAAAM!” Crabbe has finally become an NBA starter—but not where he started. Tomorrow night, he shakes hands with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, knowing better than most what it will take to contain them. Tomorrow, for the first time, Crabbe looks up at an arena of passionate Trail Blazers fans as a Brooklyn Net.

More than three months have passed since Crabbe was traded to Brooklyn, waiving the trade kicker in his contract in order to get the deal done. He is where he wants to be.

The Nets initially showed interest in Crabbe during 2016 free agency. They signed him to a 4-year, $75-million contract as a restricted free agent—the same contract that would motivate the Trail Blazers to trade him away after matching to retain him. Faced with a steep luxury tax bill, Portland sent Crabbe to Brooklyn in exchange for Andrew Nicholson, whose contract they waived and stretched to save money; the player they spent four years developing spent to reduce spending.

Perhaps it was for the best. Crabbe would never have a role in Portland that allowed him to meet his contract value, or at least try to. In Brooklyn, with time, he could just be the man.

Jason Quick of NBC Sports NW spoke with Crabbe about life as a Brooklyn Net for his Thursday feature, and Crabbe was expectedly cheerful:

“It’s everything an NBA player would want – to be a key piece to a team,’’ Crabbe said. “I don’t think it was going to happen (in Portland).’’

The biggest adjustment he says is playing without looking over his shoulder, and not worrying about mistakes. The coaching staff in Brooklyn, Crabbe says, tells him to take risks.

“They are always telling me I’m the type of player who plays not to make any mistakes, but here that’s the only way you are going to grow – take risks, get out of your comfort zone, do things you normally wouldn’t. They are giving me the freedom to do that.’’

Thus far, the growth Crabbe refers to has not come without growing pains. After 11 games, his hallmark efficiency remains absent as he yoyos between exceptional and meager production. His field goal percentage (37.5) is the lowest since his rookie season; his 3-point percentage (37.1) is a drastic departure from his 44.4 percent clip with the Trail Blazers last season—he has yet to find a groove.

Still, opportunity for individual success abounds with the rebuilding Brooklyn team. His backcourt mate, former No. 2 overall pick D’Angelo Russell, is also new to the Nets this season, so it makes sense that time would be needed for them to find their footing together. It’s up to Crabbe to meet his full potential, as it should be now and could not have truly been in Portland.

Get a good look at him on Friday and see where he stands. Is a foothold within view, or is this initial slip an indicator of things to come? His return to the Moda Center will be the first time in a long time that many fans can glimpse him in an adjusting period—an alien place for him after the comfort of a defined support role, though no alien to Portland and those who supported him in it.

To read Quick’s full article, including quotes from Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson, follow this link.