‘We Should Own the Glass’
Jennings eager to play with tall, talented Pistons froncourt
“Andre Drummond, his potential is very high. He’s so young, too,” Jennings said Tuesday after his first workout in the team’s Auburn Hills practice facility. “Greg Monroe, he’s a guy we can get the ball to under the basket and make plays, get buckets. They’re two big, physical guys, too. And with Josh (Smith), bringing him in here, I think we should own the glass this year, defense and offense.”
Early in Jennings’ Milwaukee career, when Andrew Bogut was healthy, he got to see the effect of a low-post presence on the rest of a team’s attack. When Jennings said at his introductory press conference in early August, “I definitely have to change my game for this team, for my teammates, everybody to be successful,” that’s what he had in mind.
“With the talent we have – we have two of the best young big men in the league right now, Drummond and Greg Monroe. You really don’t see that too much anymore,” he said after Tuesday’s workout. “That was the David Robinson-Tim Duncan era, when they were together. Now that we have two of ’em – and two young guys – I’m real excited to be able to play with those two.
“I haven’t been able to play with a guy who’s a post presence since Andrew Bogut, somebody you could throw it down to. Now that I have a post presence, and another guy like Josh, who can go get a bucket, Drummond, we can do pick and roll – just all type of options now.”
Jennings saw the success that Drummond and Will Bynum manufactured as a pick-and-roll tandem a season ago and is eager to team with Drummond similarly in 2013-14. Jennings’ potential as an exploiter of pick-and-roll seams and his vision were major selling points for the Pistons in engineering the trade with Milwaukee that cost them Brandon Knight plus Khris Middleton and Slava Kravtsov.
“Very athletic – he’s a monster,” Jennings said of Drummond, who spent time with Jennings in Los Angeles – where the Pistons’ new point guard grew up and still trains every summer – a week ago. “He’s just a freakish athlete. I’m just going to come in here and try to get guys going. That’s my job – get guys going – and I’ll have a lot of talent around me.”
That’s been the drumbeat from Maurice Cheeks to Jennings since the trade. Cheeks knows well what it’s like to be a point guard surrounded by scoring options, playing with the likes of Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Andrew Toney and Charles Barkley over his career in Philadelphia. And he knows how a point guard is charged with setting the tone for his team’s offense.
“His main thing is he’s going to look for me to be the leader,” Jennings said. “How I go is how the team’s going to go. Some pressure, but he’s like, ‘I wouldn’t be telling you this stuff if I didn’t believe you could do it.’ That’s good to hear from a guy who played at such a high level. He’s a guy who won a championship. You also have Chauncey Billups here, Rasheed Wallace, Joe Dumars – you’ve got a bunch of guys here who played at a high level and also won. What more can you ask for?”
Jennings was in eighth grade when the Pistons beat his hometown Lakers in the 2004 Finals. Jennings wasn’t necessarily a Lakers fan – he followed individual players, and was especially enamored with Allen Iverson – but “I was in the city, so I knew what was going on. Everybody thought the Lakers were going to win. But Chauncey Billups and those guys, they just had too much.”
And for as much as Jennings is looking forward to transforming the Pistons into the “new Lob City,” as he proclaimed in August, the chance to share a position with and pick the brain of Billups might be the most enticing part of his move to Detroit.
“That’s what I’m most excited about – a guy who won a championship, a guy you hear about all the time, just a great locker room guy and a guy who takes the time to help young players.”
Jennings has heard the skeptics who question whether the Pistons will find enough perimeter scoring to allow their offense to function efficiently, but it hasn’t cost him any sleepless nights.
“That’s why we have training camp and why we have a bunch of preseason games – to see where things are,” he said. “This is new for me. This is new for Josh. This is new for all of us under Mo Cheeks. So we’ve got to see how he wants to play and we’ve just got to make it work. Look at Brooklyn. They’ve got five potential Hall of Famers on their team and they’re going to find a way to make it work. So we can, too.”
As his new head coach has made clear, no one will play a bigger role in making it work than Brandon Jennings.