When the Detroit Pistons traded Brandon Jennings to Orlando at the trade deadline, Jennings was coming off of an Achilles injury and no longer fit in Detroit. He was replaced by Reggie Jackson. It was hard to imagine the free agent to be landing somewhere relevant. The book on Jennings was he was a good point guard, unselfish, but his shot was broken. After the Achilles, he was a different player. Since he entered the league in 2009, Jennings was the textbook for streaky and often that streakiness never materialized. Jennings was a player whose best game came so early in his rookie year he was weighed down with unreal expectations that he could never meet. A small guard, he had speed and a motor. He oozed passion. But he never overcame his lack of college training. Some of the fundamentals were still lacking in his game. But trash talking was not one of them. Jennings was always standing up for the culture. When the brouhaha between Nick Young and D’Angelo Russell fractured the Lakers locker room, Jennings was the first one to use the word “snitch” in reference to Russell.
But his game was never up to the level of his trash talking though he was an exciting player and fit in with Morey-nomics. Three pointer or at the rim. After the Orlando trade where he was underwhleming as a shotmaking, 36%, he went to the Knicks and the Wizards. He was particularly atrocious in Washington, 23%, 21% from three in 16 minutes. It led him to not being signed this past summer and Jennings going over to China. Now he is back. He signed a 10-day with the Milwaukee Bucks, the team that drafted him out of Europe in 2009 and it looks like he will stick.
His first game was epic and totally what you would expect from Jennings because, if nothing else, he is dramatic. He played 24 minutes, the same as Eric Bledose. He had 16 points, 12 asssists, 8 rebounds. He shot 50% from three. But it is the assists that stand out on the page because the Bucks are in desperate need of a point guard who can run pick and roll and create shots for teammates now that Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova are out and 40 year old Jason Terry is the only option available. Jennings helps the bench with efficiency and a whole lot of swag.
Of course, it is just one game and it’s against Memphis who is tanking. The Memphis guard crew consisted of one pure point guard, Kobi Simmons, who is averaging five points on the year so no need to wrap Jennings in Comeback Player of the Year just yet. But. He can do some things and he looks like he’s healed after the Achilles injury.
Jennings, who bypassed college to play in Italy for a year, was a lottery pick of the Milwaukee Bucks in 2009. Famously, Jennings scored 55 points to break the team record for most points scored by a rookie (Kareem Abdul-Jabaar). He was the youngest player ever to score 55 points. His best season was 2011-12 when he averaged 19.1 points. Jennings has never been an efficient shooter, amassing a mediocre 39.1% on shots made during his career.
Players on 10-day contracts are motivated to perform, particularly those who used to be in the league and spent time elsewhere. They have a hunger to prove they belong. A team can issue two 10-day contracts before signing a player for the rest of the year. J.R. Smith did that when he came back from China and signed with the Knicks. If Jennings remains consistent as a playmaker, he’ll be in the playoffs with the Bucks and will be signed with a team for next season. As the money situation dries up for a lot of teams, in this point guard league, a return to his quickiness will get Jennings paid.
He said, “I felt like it was my first rookie game again. Just to put on that jersey was a blessing and I was just grateful.”
Jennings wanted to play in China and take a year off of NBA life. He was trying to get his body right after the Achilles injury. Being isolated helped him rediscover his game and he balled out in China, like many a player does in a league that plays zero defense and where Jimmer Fredette averages 40 points.
When he came back to the States, Jennings had no issue going to the G-Leauge Wisconsin Herd. He understood he had to start over again but with his talent and experience, it wouldn’t take him long. In the G-League he averaged 21 points and 7 assists. The one thing about playing overseas is it gives you a grand dose of humility and if you have the opportunity to come back and play, you feel different about the NBA, no taking it for granted. That was the Jennings mindset in the second quarter when he dropped dimes and scored 11 points in the quarter without much resistance from the Grizzlies. He admitted he was tired as he played more minutes because Eric Bledsoe was in foul trouble.
His second game is part of his NBA reunion tour. He plays his former team, the Magic. As if wearing a Bucks jersey wasn’t enough of a welcome back Brandon, the Magic who had no interest in re-signing him will be Jennings out for blood. So to speak. All things considered. Brandon Jennings and confidence go hand in hand. But this maturity is something new.
“I know for sure I’d probably have to come off the bench but I’m better able to deal with that now which is fine. As far as being a starter, I don’t know if that will ever happen again. Whatever a team needs, I’m down for it.”
So little Brandon Jennings has finally grown up. Shout out to him.
photo via llananba