Triple Double: May be time for Bucks to show Brandon Jennings the door
So, point guard Brandon Jennings isn’t sure if he’s up to being the leader of the Milwaukee Bucks. Let’s all give him a big hug and some Kleenex, as he clearly needs it.
Oh, he could also be given a swift kick in the backside.
The Bucks, except for a few incredible months in the spring of 2010, have struggled mightily in Jennings’ first two and a half years in the league.
They currently sit in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with a 13-18 record and have lost seven of their last 10 games. They lack explosive scorers and Andrew Bogut, perhaps the team’s best player, simply can’t stay healthy for very long.
But none of this can be used to defend Jennings’ words and actions the past few weeks. He has made it clear he wants Stephen Jackson to play more, undercutting coach Scott Skiles’ authority.
The NBA is clearly a players’ league, but it’s never helpful for players to speak out against decisions made by the coaching staff. Jackson’s attitude and play have earned him his spot on the bench. Jennings should understand and accept that and play with the guys on the floor.
He has also starting talking about the end of his rookie contract. Jennings can be a free agent in the summer of 2013 and has been looking at several large-market teams in anticipation.
These are things that only serve to distract a team and lead people to question whether his focus is on his current team or whoever his next one will be.
After a loss to the lowly New Orleans Hornets last week, Jennings admitted he had not been trying his hardest lately and needed to “look in the mirror” to find answers. I think many Bucks fans are searching for answers about Jennings themselves.
After starting the season with improved shooting and leadership skills, it seemed as though Jennings had turned a corner in his career.
In back-to-back mid-January games against the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks, he posted 30 and 36 points, respectively. He had 31 points and eight assists in a Feb. 1 win against the Miami Heat, capping a 6-2 stretch for the team.
Then the bottom fell out. In 12 February games, Jennings has shot an abysmal 33.8 percent (65-192), including 28.4 percent from three-point range (23-81). Jennings has never been an efficient offensive player, generally requiring lots of shots to score his points. But he’s also never established himself as a premier option to the point where he can continue to shoot despite these major struggles.
This is my main contention with Jennings’ recent comments and poor play. To behave this way but back it up on the court is one thing. But Jennings is a point guard with a career assist-to-turnover ratio of just over 2-to-1 and a 38.4 percent career shooting percentage. Do those sound like the numbers of a star in the league?
Surely Jennings has to be frustrated by the Bucks’ lackluster play and seemingly dim future. They have a roster of journeymen in a league where scrappy, team-oriented play is often defeated by superstar talent. The Bucks are a very good defensive team but are sorely lacking for players to put the ball in the basket.
That’s not to say that they haven’t tried to add offense. In recent years, the Bucks have acquired the likes of Richard Jefferson, John Salmons, Corey Maggette and Jackson, all with the goal of adding scoring punch. Only Jackson is still around, and it seems like a matter of weeks before he’s traded as well.
But Jennings cannot be absolved of blame for the franchise’s current state. Unless he learns to facilitate offense more effectively as a point guard or improve his scoring ability as a shooting guard, he’ll continue to be an exciting but ultimately disappointing player.
The Bucks have not recently committed to a full rebuilding plan, but now seems as good a time as any to do it. It will be a hard sell to the fan base, but the current product isn’t pleasing anyone either.
A rebuilding plan should include trading Jennings this off-season to maximize the return. Getting an unprotected draft pick and a young player of two may be the right thing for the franchise to do. After all, Jennings has admitted he may not be up for leading this team. It’s time to take him at his word and move on. It seems Jennings himself already has.