You probably don't come to a site called Miller Park Drunk to read about the Bucks. We don't really care, it's our blog we'll write what we want. Don't believe me? Tomorrow we're talking about the Admirals. Seriously.
Brandon Jennings is the most important athlete in Wisconsin not named Rodgers, Fielder or Braun.
There, I said it. It's out there and I can't take it back. After watching the Bucks take on the Chicago Bulls last night, I feel this stronger than anything I've felt since I said that The Happy Youngster was a douchebag. I've made my fair share of Bucks jokes in the past and I've even made fun of Brandon Jennings before, but I had no idea he was this good. I had no idea that he'd be, within three games, the best point guard the Bucks have had since Sam Cassell flew away on his spaceship.
Looking back maybe we should have know. I mean, look at his Wikipedia:
In his senior year of high school, Jennings averaged 32.7 points, 7.5 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 3.7 steals per game and set the school record for points in a season. This performance earned him some of high school basketball’s most prestigious awards: the 2008 Naismith High School Basketball Player of the Year, 2007-08 Gatorade Player of the Year (Virginia), 2008 Parade Magazine Player of the Year and 2008 EA Sports Player of the Year.
I mean, they don't just hand out the awards for "Best High School Basketball Player in the Country" to just anybody. Kenny Anderson (more on him later), Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Dwight Howard and Kevin Love are a few past winners of the Naismith Award. It's not like this guy just came out of nowhere. Then again as a guy drafted #10 overall in a draft that Bill Simmons called "the worst draft class since the infamous Kenyon Martin Draft in 2000" by a team whose recent draft history includes Joe Alexander and Yi Jianlian (not necessarily saying Yi is a bust, I just like typing his name) he wasn't quite a "sure thing" either. Put it this way, Brandon Jennings didn't even show up for the 2009 NBA Draft because his agent wasn't sure if he'd get picked in the first round (leading to him showing up in the middle of the draft to get his picture taken with Stern.) He hardly played in Europe and everyone forgot about him. One day, this will be considered one of the greatest things that ever happened to both the Bucks and Brandon Jennings. Here's the others:
1. Unlike Derrick Rose, Brandon Jennings takes his own tests and is unable to pass them. He is unable to go to college because of this he goes to play in Italy on a one year contract.
A couple of good things actually came of this. One, if he went to college he likely wouldn't have worked on his game much and just coasted along putting up 18-5's until he was draft eligible. This isn't a guarantee, but it's definitely the path that many naturally gifted high schoolers who would have gone out for the draft after high school if they could have take. Instead he went to play in Europe. Now, it's pretty clear that Europe made him grow up. Both as a player and a person. Being in a different country where the culture is different (they don't use dryers!) and everyone speaking a different language has an effect on a person. For Jennings it brought him closer to his family and brought him closer to basketball. Practicing your game is a lot more fun than sitting around in a hotel room watching DVDs and messing around on the internet. In college? There would have been a keg party and between 15-2500 hot co-eds who wanted to sleep with the future NBA star.
Second, what a lot of people don't know is that the European leagues are a lot more physical than the NBA. While the NBA has made rule changes to curb physical play (thanks Knicks from the 90's) and taken away a fun aspect of the game, the Europeans have made no such rule changes and if he wanted to keep up Jennings had to get tough. They also play a slower game over there and if Jennings wanted to get any playing time he'd have to learn to stop playing like Allen Iverson on crystal meth and work a half court offense. He did his best to do this, but his coach was on the hot seat to win and didn't want to mess with the team's chemistry by putting in an unproven rookie American. Jennings played sparingly (only 5.5 points and 2.3 assists in just 17 minutes a game) and a lot of players would probably sulk in his situation, but Jennings just worked harder and harder. It was a completely humbling experience. He knew he couldn't control how much he played, but he could control how much he developed. He never took his eye off the prize.
2. He was drafted by the Bucks and coach Scott Skiles.
This might seem like a long time ago, but anyone who has ever played NBA Jam knows that Scott Skiles was a pretty good point guard once upon a time (most assists in a single game, on fire). He's also a really tough coach that focuses on defense and working hard. Having Jennings come from Italy where he was honing an intense work ethic and paring him with a coach with an intense work ethic was a match made in Heaven. Skiles wants to work with Jennings and Jennings wants to do it, there aren't many young NBA stars like that. Jennings said in a recent interview about Skiles:
"He has been helping me out a whole lot, with watching film especially. We come in here early and watch film of all my shots, all the ones that were bad, all the ones that were good. He tells me certain things I can do when I am shooting, and I try to do those during the games. But it makes me want to take better shots, because I know he is going to go over it with me. It helps me out."
The biggest question mark about Jennings coming out of the draft was his jump shot and since coming to the Bucks he's done nothing but work on it. This is a good thing. Early reports from scouts are comparing him to a young Kenny Anderson, but Kenny Anderson never had his work ethic or his humility and he married a chick from the Real World. Jenning is going to be a (possibly much) better version Kenny Anderson. This is a capital-g Great thing.
Looking back on his infamous phone call with Joe Budden (that in his defense, he didn't know was being recorded) we should have known that he had exactly the kind of swagger we've been looking for. At the time I made fun of it because I think it's funny when people from Compton talk like people from Compton. Like my favorite comedic movie from the 90's, Menace II Society. That's a comedy, right? (Oh, O-Dog what kind of shenanigans will you get into next? Stealing burgers from a basehead after you shoot him for offering to S your D? Oh you!) Yet if you look at what he said, you have to love what he's saying even if you hate how he says it.
(on Budden askin who Ridnour would be backing up) "To who? Who else n****?"
In his mind there is no one who should be starting ahead of him. This is what you want to hear.
(On Skiles) "That n**** tough, that n**** tough though. There must be a reason he liked me. There must be a reason."
Exactly what it says. This coach with a tough reputation sees something special in me. I think he's excited to be a Buck. Wow.
"F*** the Knicks, them n***** skipped out on me"
"F*** the Knicks, them n***** is always going to be weak,"
"Duhon ain't gonna get it done."
The best quotes of all. The New York Knicks did him the greatest disservice of all in his mind. They skipped him over for Jordan Hill despite having an obvious need for a point guard. Despite having an offense that could use a point guard with his specific skill set. The Knicks are the first ones on his list and I can't wait til they play because I am pretty sure that Jennings is going to take Duhon apart. By the way that game is this Saturday night at the Bradley Center. Jennings first 30 point game? Jennings first 30 point game.
This swagger is exactly what the Bucks have been missing. Not since Sam Cassell took his testicle dance with him back to Middle Earth have the Bucks had a player like him. Michael Redd has been their best player, but he's not a true top guy. No swagger. Andrew Bogut? As much as you try to make him, not a top guy. Charlie V did a nice top guy impression a few times last season, but not an alpha dog. Brandon Jennings is a top guy. Brandon Jennings is an alpha dog. He plays hard, he knows when to take over and when he wants to take over he's capable of doing it. Watch his third quarter against the Pistons. Watch his defense on Derrick Rose at the end of the Bulls game. He owns the Bucks. Before the season I gave up on the Bucks because they let Sessions and Charlie V leave for nothing and didn't really add anybody. Now, I think they sneak into the playoffs if everyone stays healthy. That's what Young Money has done to me. In three games. (By the way, his nickname is Young Money. Awesome, no?) If unathletic white guys didn't look so stupid in jerseys I would totally buy his. Brandon Jennings may be the guy who saves basketball in Milwaukee and I'm 100% serious.
I'm not the only one who sees great things for him. Packers star Greg Jennings said "I think Brandon’s going to be a huge asset to the city. The fans in Wisconsin, they embrace their athletes. It’s all about how you represent yourself. If you’re sociable and work hard, everyone loves you." Couldn't have said it better myself. You should love him. Really, how can you not love a guy who said this on his blog:
As you probably know, I did the Gumby/High Top Fade thing when I was in high school for the McD’s Game and Jordan Game. I’m really into the whole 80’s fashion thing…it’s cool, it’s different. Kids have been hitting me lately on myspace and AIM, saying they did the Gumby and high top fade because they saw me do it, which I think is pretty cool.
You can't. You just can't.