I remember the hype of Brandon Jennings when he was an emerging point guard in high school out of Los Angeles. I can only speak for myself, but there's something exciting seeing a kid emerge out of those battleground cities (LA, NYC, Chicago, etc.) and rep his city strongly on the court and off the court. Jennings was that kid through and through. He had a game (that handle ... that lefty stroke ... the shiftiness, man) that matched his mouth and look. (Remember that gumby box fade cut?) I was quickly finding myself becoming a fan of Young Money.
Then three memorable things happened:
One - He originally committed to Arizona. My fandom skyrocketed. Outside of rooting for my hometown schools, I've always been a fan of the Arizona program. Could Jennings be the next in line of stud guards like Stoudamire, Simon, Bibby, Gardner, Terry and Arenas?
Two - He went to Europe. Still one of the boldest moves in basketball history, my fandom skyrocketed even more. Why go to college if you really don't want to? Go get that money overseas, get paid to develop your game and work it out. He went to Italy, balled against Ricky Rubio and them, and got his money. Well done.
Three - He was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks. A bigger test than anything he'd face in high school, Arizona and in Italy, playing for the Milwaukee Bucks might as well be akin to playing basketball in Siberia. It's not that there's anything wrong with the Bucks, but there are few teams in the NBA who are less relevant than the Bucks. The days of Jesus Shuttlesworth/Big Dog in a Bucks uniform are largely forgettable, and if you remember the Terry Cummings/Alvin Robertson days in the late 80's then good for you because I don't remember them.
I wasn't sure if Brandon Jennings would be able to lift the Bucks from the abyss that was the state of their franchise, and three-plus years into his career in Milwaukee, the fringe-playoff team is still an average team at best. Should Jennings stay? Should Jennings go? Per SLAM Online, it seems that Jennings wants to get paid, but Jennings wants to win too:
Brandon Jennings told Yahoo! he would leave Milwaukee after the ’13-14 season if the Bucks don’t offer a lucrative contract and make changes to the roster and organization this summer: “Point guard Brandon Jennings, a soon-to-be restricted free agent, says if he signs a one-year qualifying offer with Milwaukee this offseason, expect his days with the Bucks to be limited to one season. ‘If I take the qualifying offer and become an [unrestricted] free agent there is no way I am coming back,’ Jennings told Yahoo! Sports on Friday after practice. ‘There is no way.’ Jennings considers Milwaukee a ‘great sports town’ and has enjoyed his time there, but in order to keep him long term, Jennings said the Bucks’ offer must be lucrative and there needs to be changes in the roster and the organization to make it championship caliber. Brandon Jennings expects a big contract and team improvements if the Bucks want to keep him. [...] ‘I just want to win,’ Jennings said. ‘The way I am playing now, I just want to go to a winning team and play like that. I don’t care about being a superstar or being the main guy. I did that [the] first four years. I just want to win and be somewhere where it’s all about winning. I’m not saying the Bucks aren’t about winning. But I think [a title caliber situation] will help me, motivate my game and then you have to perform.’ [...] ‘Everybody says I’m just a shooter, I’m just a scorer,’ Jennings said. ‘But if you go back to my high school days, I’ve always been a pass-first point guard. Now that we got J.J. [Redick], who’s a good scorer, now I’m just looking for options all the time. Basically, I should have been doing what I’ve been doing the last three months. Is it too late? I don’t know. But maybe it’s a good way to start showing what else I can do.’”
Who is Brandon Jennings in 2013, five years removed from being a high school All-American and international hooper? For the majority of his tenure in Milwaukee, Jennings has been at times a scoring sensation with an ability to fill it up any way you like it on the court. Other times, Jennings can be the inefficient, chucking "scoring point guard" that some folks seem to hate with a passion (i.e. Russell Westbrook). In recent times, Jennings has been the point guard everyone wants him to be, dishing to ball around to his teammates and making folks better. Could a simple infusion of a quality shooter (J.J. Redick) and a developing playoff team in Milwaukee have something to do with that?
In the time preceding the 2012-13 NBA season, we saw Jrue Holiday, Stephen Curry and Ty Lawson all get paid with extensions to stay with their current teams. Jennings, who was in the same draft as the aforementioned players, seems to rank behind each of the three players in the point guard hierarchy, but I'm not sure anyone would argue that from a talent standpoint, he doesn't take a backseat to any of those guys.
Would I love to see Brandon Jennings possibly land in Minnesota, pairing with Rubio (who can definitely guard shooting guards at 6'5") and form the international backcourt class of 2008, along with a healthy European big man-like guy in Kevin Love? That could be awesome. So could an opportunity in Los Angeles, you know, if Steve Nash
ended this entire Lakers experiment gone bad, did the right thing and retired after this season and put the hometown hero next to Kobe and Dwight? I hate the Lakers, but that could be awesome (or dysfunctional) for everyone involved.
To be honest, there isn't a great fit for Jennings on an already-emerging team. Teams like Phoenix, Utah and Detroit might come calling, but if Jennings is really about that winning life, he'll reject those guys. Let's just hope that Jennings finds a home that allows a talented player to really flourish, be it on a (hopefully) emerging Milwaukee squad or elsewhere, because we need that gumby cut back, those possibly gang-related hand gestures back, and the ego that is Brandon Jennings aka "Young Money."
Eddie Maisonet is the founder and editor emeritus of The Sports Fan Journal. Currently, he serves as an associate editor for ESPN.com. He is an unabashed Russell Westbrook and Barry Switzer apologist, owns over 100 fitteds and snapbacks, and lives by Reggie Jackson’s famous quote, “I am the straw that stirs the drink.”