MILWAUKEE — Brandon Jennings, the Milwaukee Bucks point guard who has missed 14 games with a fractured fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot, has withdrawn as a contestant in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest at All-Star Weekend, NBA.com has learned.
While Jennings is on track to return to the Bucks’ lineup within the next two weeks, the risk of re-injury while practicing for and participating in the dunk contest apparently caused the player and the Bucks to reconsider his involvement, sources said. A league spokesman declined to comment Wednesday and information on Jennings’ likely replacement could not be confirmed.
However, the NBA announced Thursday morning that Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan — the runner-up in last year’s Sprite Slam Dunk Contest — will replace Jennings this year in Los Angeles. (Watch TNT tonight at 8 p.m. ET for full coverage of the announcement.)
Jennings, 21, hurt his foot against in an awkward spill at San Antonio on Dec. 15 and struggled to play on it three nights later against Utah. The second-year guard had surgery on Dec. 20, with an expected layoff of four to six weeks. The Bucks, 10-15 when Jennings went down, are 5-9 since.
Jennings said Wednesday after the Bucks’ shootaround that he hopes to return by the end of the month, when the Bucks head to his native southern California to face the L.A. Clippers at the start of a three-game trip. “I’m hoping before we hit L.A. on the 31st,” he said. “So I’m hoping before then. Next week or so, get a couple games in before I leave.”
The Bucks face Atlanta at home on Wednesday, play at Toronto on Jan. 28, then have the Nets at Bradley Center on Jan. 29. In 25 appearances, Jennings averaged 18.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists while shooting 39.1 percent.
From the start, Jennings was an improbable choice to compete in the Slam Dunk event on Feb. 19 at All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles. He was the lone guard selected in the field of four that includes the Clippers’ Blake Griffin, Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka and Washington’s JaVale McGee. Also, he hardly is known as a dunker.
“I don’t sell Brandon short but I believe he has two dunks and Blake has 96 or something,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said recently. “I don’t know how those decisions are made. … I have seen Brandon alone in a gym do some dunks that are pretty impressive. Small guys tend to get more accolades in those things anyway.”
Skiles had said that he was fine with Jennings competing, if healthy. But with the Bucks beset with injuries this season and stalled in 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings, losing their point guard to another layoff – thanks to an exhibition event – would be a tough sell to Milwaukee fans.
Jennings, who stayed on the court for extra shooting ut has avoided any running or cutting on the court, did not address his participation directly Wednesday morning. But he did not sound that enthused. “It’s an honor but it’s not a thing that’s really mandatory for me right now,” Jennings said. “Mandatory for me is trying to get back on the court and help the team. So that’s my No. 1 priority.”