HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — For a player whose name alone stirred as much debate as it did four years ago, it’s stunning how silent folks are now that Brandon Jennings is seemingly all grown up (or at least well on his way).
All of the critics who questioned his motives and at-the-time controversial decision to skip college for a year, instead pursuing his professional hoop dream in Italy, have disappeared. It’s been a steady climb for Jennings, who has done nothing but improve his game year after year, from a rough start in Italy to being drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 10th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft the next year, to now.
Has he grown enough on and off the court for the Bucks to cement his future in Milwaukee with a contract extension before the Oct. 31 deadline? That remains to be seen.
But with days left before a decision has to be made, Jennings would become a restricted free agent at the end of this season if there is no extension, the topic is on the minds of some. Gery Woelfel of the Journal Times raised the question to Jennings, who has more pressing matters on his mind these days, namely making sure he and backcourtmate Monta Ellis return the Bucks to the playoffs:
Jennings has repeatedly said he’s content in Milwaukee and would welcome being with the Bucks for the long haul. Signing an extension would virtually assure that.
But Jennings said he isn’t the least bit worried if an extension can’t be worked out.
Asked if his contract situation was weighing on his mind, Jennings said, “No, because at the end of the day, everything will work out. All I can do is go between the lines and play basketball every day.’’
Jennings went so far as to say that he couldn’t remember the last time he and his agent, Bill Duffy, had talked specifically about a contract extension.
“I talked to him a couple of weeks ago, but it wasn’t about the contract,’’ Jennings said. “I can’t put my hand on what’s really going on (with contract talks). That’s why I just let my agent handle it.
“If anything happens, I’m sure he’ll text me and let me know and let me know what’s offered and then say, ‘It’s up to you.’ But I haven’t gotten that call yet.’’
Just how much money “Young Money” is worth is the question the Bucks have to answer before Jennings gets that call, if it comes at all. It’s hard to imagine a young player handling things much better than Jennings, 23, has over the first three seasons of his NBA career.
The Bucks haven’t exactly been the picture of stability. Jennings and Andrew Bogut were supposed to be the faces of a franchise that was in the process of building itself into a perennial playoff contender. Jennings dazzled in his only playoff appearance, abusing the Hawks’ point guards in a seven-game scrap in the first round after his rookie season.
Despite all of the turnover and tumult, Jennings has continued to hone his craft. His scoring and shooting percentages have increased significantly in each of his first three seasons and while he is not considered a big-time defender, he’s a player opposing teams have to account for every night.
All that said, the point guard landscape in the league has never been richer than it is right now.
From Los Angeles (Chris Paul, Steve Nash) to New York (Deron Williams) and Boston (Rajon Rondo) and all points in between (Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, Tony Parker in San Antonio, an injured Derrick Rose in Chicago and many more), there are high-level point guards guiding playoff teams.
There are other youngsters — guys like Kyrie Irving in Cleveland, Jrue Holiday in Philadelphia and Mike Conley in Memphis — who are pushing for spots on the elite list as well.
Good luck sorting out a pecking order with so many different types of talented point guards to choose from.
The case to be made for Jennings is that it’s hard to imagine a player being a better fit for a team. The Bucks gambled on a young prospect in 2009 and won big!