Brandon Jennings' career has always had a big-fish, small-pond feeling (well, at least in his own head).
Remember on Draft night three years ago, Jennings elected to skip attending the Draft because he and his agent were afraid he was not going to be picked in the lottery and then showed up late after the Bucks did make him the 10th pick in the Draft. Remember before that, Jennings opted to skip college and spend a year in Italy playing professional basketball for his mandatory year our of high school.
Jennings talked a big game, and for a while he played like it. His dynamite rookie season led the Bucks to the playoffs in 2010. But as the team struggled after that and as Jennings failed to recapture that magic, Jennings seemed to want more.
He put out hints last season, the season before he was due an extension, that he was interested in leaving Milwaukee, perhaps heading back to his home in Southern California or elsewhere. He continued to show improvement -- he averaged a career-best 19.1 points per game and shot a career-best 41.8 percent -- for a Bucks team that had a lot of excitement associated with it following the Monta Ellis acquisition. But Milwaukee never seemed to capture his imagination.
Maybe that gets put to rest now.
Jennings told Gery Woelfel of the Racine (Wis.) Journal Times that he is hopeful the Bucks will offer him an extension and that he will become the face of the franchise for the future.
"If everything is right, why not? If my agent (Bill Duffy) comes back and says this is what we should do, I'm going to do it.
"At the end of the day, it's an NBA team. If you asked any guy in the NBA, would you like to be the face of a franchise, I'm sure 80 percent of them would say yes, no matter where they are."
Hardly a ringing endorsement. But for Bucks fans who support the team keeping Jennings, it is not an awful thing. Certainly it is better than when Jennings said earlier this season when he said he would keep his options open and "do his homework" on "big-market teams." That looked like a death knell for Jennings' time in Milwaukee.
The Bucks, though, are in an interesting position.
Ersan Ilyasova, one of the most improved players in the league last year, is a free agent this year and Milwaukee has decisions to make about him. Then there is Monta Ellis, who has an early termination option follwing the 2013 season. No one is quite sure what to make of Milwaukee's experiment pairing up the two high-scoring guards (all with Scott Skiles, who is known as a hard driver on the defensive end especially). The half season Milwaukee got with Ellis is not enough to make any snap judgments about what the team will do. The thought is Ellis will opt out and seek to go elsewhere.
That leaves Jennings, who would be a restricted free agent if he does not sign an extension this summer, somewhere in the middle of all those plans.
Jennings has done some very good things. He has proven himself to be a capable scorer in the league and a better passer than most realized, although he is still better suited as a shooting guard. What Jennings struggles with is figuring out when to be the scorer and when not to be the scorer. He still is a high-volume shooter who does not have a great percentage. He hit on only 33.2 percent of his 3-pointers this year while taking six per game. He took 17.0 field goal attempts per game this past season, and his usage rate was at 25.9 percent.
Those are numbers you expect for a star. Just not one who is not getting 20 points per night.
That kind of high scoring is in Jennings, but it has yet to emerge on a consistent basis. The question is how much will the Bucks be willing to invest in him?
The answer to that question is much more difficult to answer. Perhaps it is too far into the future to say. Jennings said he hopes to become more of a leader for the team and change the culture in the locker room. The Playoffs are squarely the team's goal and it does not feel like Jennings will be satisfied with anything less for his team.
Jennings' change in tone about Milwaukee gives him more options however, and it gives Milwaukee more options too. Jennings has a lot to prove in his contract year to get the deal he covets from whomever.
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