Jennings focuses on team, teammates
Brandon Jennings talks with the media after returning home from the final game of the 2011-12 season.
Statistically speaking, Brandon Jennings’ third season in the National Basketball Association was his finest.
The Milwaukee Bucks guard, whose only transition from Oak Hill Academy to the NBA was a 43-game European stint, averaged career highs of 19.1 points and 35.3 minutes per game and shot a career-best .418 from the field.
Jennings was the only Buck to play all 66 games of the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign and led the team in minutes (2331) field goals attempted (1121), field goals made (469), free throws attempted (239), free throws made (193), 3-pointers made (129), 3-pointers attempted (388), points (1260), assists (365) and steals (104).
Jennings could have spent the dwindling days of the season talking up what was arguably his best as a pro, but he didn’t spend a lot of time doing that.
Instead, he talked about his team and the chemistry it had to develop rapidly following the March 14 trade of Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson for Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh.
Once the Bucks had been eliminated from playoff contention on the final week of the regular season, Jennings talked about what could have been -- on a different timetable.
“I think with the trade with us getting Monta, if we’d have played an 82-game season with me and Monta, it would have been a different story,” Jennings said. “We got Monta toward the end of the season. Sometimes when you make trades, the chemistry’s not there at the beginning. Guys kind of had to play with each other and figure each other out. But I think next year will be bigger and better.”
Few players, if any, on the Bucks roster thrived more following the aforementioned trade than Jennings.
His scoring and assist averages improved from 15.1 ppg and 5.2 apg in February to 20.5 ppg and 5.9 apg in March before he finished with numbers of 20.4 ppg and 5.4 apg in April.
His field-goal percentage climbed from .336 in February to .434 in March to .446 in April, and his 3 point percentage rose from .268 in February to .347 in March before leveling at .342 in April.
His free throw percentage escalated from .765 in February to .781 in March to .870 in April.
And his minutes per game peaked for the season at 36.0 in April.
“First of all, I was blessed just to be able to play a whole season,” Jennings said. “Last year, I had my injury – my broken foot. In my rookie year, I played all 82. This year, just to be healthy when a lot of guys were getting hurt just because of the lockout, it was a blessing for me.”
Jennings expressed his respect for teammate Ersan Ilyasova, who averaged career bests of 13 points and 8,8 rebounds per game in just 27.6 minutes per contest.
“Ersan’s been great,” Jennings said. “We don’t really run a lot of offense for him, but he gets the rebounds … sometimes we think he misses on purpose just to get his rebounds. That’s what he does.
“He plays with heart, and he gets the big boards and hits the big shots for us. That’s why, in my opinion, he’s the most-improved player in the league.”
Jennings was asked for his impression of Bucks rookie forward Tobias Harris, who finished his first NBA season with 16 points and nine rebounds against Boston on April 26 after achieving his first professional double-double with 15 points and 13 boards against Philadelphia on April 25.
Harris averaged 5 ppg and 2.4 rpg in 11.4 mpg and shot .467 from the field and .815 from the foul line in 42 contests.
“His future is bright,” Jennings said of Harris. “Tobias is a ‘3’ guy who’s an athletic small forward who can get up and down the floor. He can shoot and rebound well.
“Summer league is going to be really important for him. I’m excited to see his development. We’ll see what he does.”
During the offseason of 2011 and the ensuing lockout, Jennings challenged himself with a coast-to-coast basketball tour that would have made the Harlem Globetrotters proud.
He figures he’ll make some adjustments this summer.
“As far as workouts. I’ll know how to pace myself,” Jennings said. “During the lockout, I didn’t really know how to pace myself. I was going crazy with the workouts and playing everywhere.
“This summer will be great, just knowing that training camp starts Sept. 27.”
Jennings was asked what it will take for him to reach the next level as an NBA point guard.
“It’s going to take wins,” he replied. “That’s the main thing. No matter what you’re doing in this league, as long as you’re winning, you’re going to get noticed.
“I think with us having an up-and-down season as a team, you really can’t say too much about us. It’s not just about me; it’s about the team. If we win, we all get noticed.”
Unlike some of his contemporaries around the league, Jennings didn’t issue any ultimatums or even offer any helpful hints to team management concerning personnel moves.
“Not at all,” Jennings said. “That’s none of my business. That’s not what I signed up for. I signed up to play basketball for the Milwaukee Bucks and that’s what I’m going to do. John Hammond and those guys know what they’re doing. That’s why he’s the general manager.”
Jennings figures he has his own job to do. “I think as a point guard, it’s my duty to be a leader,” he said. “Going into my fifth year, if you count my year in Europe, it’s time for me to fill that role.”