NBA AM: It’s A Big Year For Jennings
A Big Year For Brandon Jennings: The Milwaukee Bucks opted not to extend the contract of point guard Brandon Jennings, ensuring that he’ll hit some level of free agency in July. The team has said they have every intention of matching whatever Jennings is offered on the open market, but there is a lot hanging in the balance for him and his Bucks team.
The Bucks have 10 players that are either free agents or have options that either can be picked up or declined, meaning the Bucks will have a chance this summer to totally reinvent themselves and that’s not lost on Jennings.
“If we don’t make the playoffs this year, it’s going to get ugly,” Jennings told HOOPSWORLD. “I’ve been saying it since day one, every year; we either miss it by one game or two games, so that’s very frustrating.”
The Bucks got out to an amazing start, but have tapered off as of late, from Jennings’ view a lot of the struggles lately have to do with trust.
“I think trust is probably the number one thing right now. I don’t think we are trusting each other as a team on both ends of the floor, and we have to get that trust back,”’ said Jennings.
“I think that’s going to happen over time. We just can’t say ‘Against San Antonio, we’re all going to trust each other.’ It’s going to take team effort, and everybody just to know what got us to be 6-2 in the beginning; and it was just playing together, and trusting each other.”
Jennings has taken on a lot of the team building burden himself and is pushing himself more as a player.
“I put a lot of it on myself, because I am the point guard, so everything, basically, goes through me. It’s really tough and really frustrating right now,” said Jennings.
“I love the pressure, but it is important that we win this year, that’s why it was so great that we started off at 6-2.”
Jennings has been shooting the ball more confidently in game and has been knocking down big three point shots, something that was a knock on him two seasons ago, and something he is steadily getting better at.
“I’m always shooting the ball; I’m always taking extra shots, so I’m really working on that right now,” explained Jennings. “I wish my assists could be higher than what it is, but that’s just from setting up my team mates and making sure they get the best shots, so that’s just another thing, too.”
Jennings says he understands the ebb and flow of the NBA and as quickly as things turned south for the Bucks, it can turn the other way too.
“It’s the NBA,” Jennings said. “It’s the greatest players. So, it can happen, we just got to believe it.“
The Bucks have lost two straight games and are 3-7 in their last ten games, which puts them in 9th place in the East. The Bucks upcoming schedule presents some winnable matchups including homes games versus the Bobcats, the Kings and the Pacers as well as road matchups against the Cavaliers and Pistons.
If the Bucks can find their identity defensively, they could bounce back. The Bucks have given up 100 or more in just two of their eight wins. The trends says if Milwaukee can keep a team under 100 they have a shot at winning the game, as most of their losses have come at the hands of a 100 or more points.
As potent as Milwaukee can be offensively, they won’t win many shootouts, so the key to a bounce back is defense.
The Bucks have a lot hanging on this season. If they can’t find their way a lot of change is on the horizon in Milwaukee.
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Pau Wants To Get Right: Lakers forward Pau Gasol has sat out the last two games to get his ailing knee right. He has been undergoing round the clock treatment and he and the team have agreed that it’s more important for him to get right physically than to try and force games in December.
Gasol talked with reporters last night in New Orleans about his status, watch what he had to say:
Kobe Gets 30,000: In NBA circles they joke that at the end of your playing career you’re generally in to collect a check or to add to your legacy. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant put one more notch on his NBA career last night passing the 30,000 point mark, making him the fifth player in NBA history to achieve that milestone.
After the game Kobe was reflective on what that meant especially the irony of doing against the team that originally drafted him and traded him to the Lakers in 1996.
“It’s funny how sports always kind of has to come full circle,” Bryant said with a smile.
The trade that landed him in LA with the Lakers was orchestrated well in advance of the draft and the Hornets never considered Bryant as an option. 16 years and six months later Bryant cemented himself as the best player of his generation, and in a real conversation about being the best that ever played.
“Throughout my career, I haven’t really thought about it,” Bryant said of how he measures himself. “Just kind of what comes, comes. Now, honestly, I don’t know why I work as hard as I do, I guess I enjoy it. I think that’s the thing that I’m most proud of, is that I enjoy it and work hard, it’s been a lot of years that I’ve worked.”
Bryant is still averaging better than 28 a game this season and on his career is averaging roughly 25 a game. Bryant is typically good for about 2,000 points a season on average and has said he plans to play for at least two more years.
If Bryant can keep his pace or anything close to it, Bryant should pass Wilt Chamberlain’s 31,419 career NBA points this season and have a real shot at eclipsing Michael Jordan’s 32,292 career NBA points next season. 2nd place All-Time belongs to Karl Malone and his 36,928 career NBA points and would likely require three more season at Kobe’s current pace and passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 38,387 career NBA points would take roughly five more seasons at Kobe’s current pace.
Bryant has said he wants two more NBA championships, if the Lakers can convince Bryant to play beyond his current contract there is a chance Bryant becomes the greatest scorer of all-time. He’ll likely pass Wilt this year. MJ is in sight so those two are next. The question is will Kobe have any motivation to hang around and pad his legacy?
The Pelicans Are Coming: NBA Commissioner David Stern addressed the media last night in New Orleans and while he played coy about the specific name change being talked about in New Orleans, he was clear that he wouldn’t stand in the way of a name change in New Orleans or in Charlotte if the team owner wanted to go through the process.
“Everyone seems to know about this thing other than me,” Stern said with a smile. “My guess is that there’s going to be some sort of formal application in the next couple of months and we’ll see where it goes from there.”
Stern conceded that there was a lengthy process involved including forms and fees that must be paid, but that he wouldn’t stand in the way, in fact he joked about being a willing facilitator.
“There are lots of things that have to be filed,” said Stern. “In fact, I do know that the Hornets filed to protect five names, trademark protection. They have to apply to us, they have to pay certain fees, there’s a timing schedule, but I think the Hornets may have a friend in the league office that may help expedite the process when they decide on a name. I don’t remember his name, but I’m pretty sure it’ll happen faster than those big old meanies at the NBA say it’ll happen.”
As for the idea of renaming the New Orleans franchise the Pelicans, Stern said he didn’t have an opinion.
“If it works for them, it works for me,” Stern said. “I don’t have any objections to anything that the Hornets want to do name-wise because I’m sure it’ll be sensible. … I’m sure whatever it is, it’ll be good. If [Pelicans] is what it is, that’s fine. … I think everything sounds good. I think Lakers, have you seen any lakes in Los Angeles? There’s the same amount of lakes in L.A. as there is jazz in Utah, or grizzlies in Memphis. I’m out of that business. Whatever works for a team works for me.
“If Charlotte wanted to ultimately change their name back to the Hornets that would be okay with me.”
The Hornets are hoping to fast-track several things including building a new headquarters and practice facility across from the New Orleans Saints facility, significantly closer to the arena and downtown, as well as complete an overhaul of New Orleans Arena. They’d like to time this summer’s overhaul with new branding and color scheme, so it seems unless the NBA Board of Governors votes against the change, the Hornets will be the Pelicans and the Bobcats might again be the Hornets.
The Hornets say the process of picking a new name and getting it approved has just begun, and despite David Stern’s best efforts to play poker, it’s clear that the Pelicans are coming and Stern will help make it happen.
You can watch the entire Press Conference here. Stern talks about Kobe Bryant, why he fined the San Antonio Spurs and where he stands on the new NBA economy.
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