NBA PM: Jennings Will Consider Mavericks
Brandon Jennings is eligible to become a restricted free agent this summer and it’s no secret that the 23-year-old point guard is going to weigh his options. Jennings has made it clear that he’ll look at all of his potential destinations and decide which situation is best for him.
One year ago, Jennings made headlines when he told ESPN that he’s “doing his homework on big market teams.” While he later backed off from those comments, Jennings is clearly tired of being overlooked and unappreciated.
He wants the respect and exposure that comes with playing in a larger market, and he’s hoping to change how he’s perceived by testing the free agent market this offseason.
One team to keep an eye on this summer is the Dallas Mavericks.
There is mutual interest between Jennings and the Mavericks, and Dallas will have the necessary cap space to sign him to the lucrative, long-term deal that he’s seeking. The Mavericks reportedly tried to acquire Jennings prior to last week’s trade deadline, and they’ll certainly by one of several teams pursuing him this summer.
Jennings admits that the Mavericks’ situation is attractive and one that he’ll seriously consider.
“Yeah, of course,” Jennings told The Dallas Morning News when asked if he could see himself in Dallas. “You’ve got Dirk Nowitzki, you’ve got O.J. Mayo, Elton Brand, Chris Kaman.
“Who wouldn’t want to play in an environment like this every night? You’ve got an owner who’s so into his team and everything like that. Every time you see the Mavs, you see him cheering or going crazy. They won a championship. They’re about winning.”
Dallas entered the Deron Williams sweepstakes last summer, but the star point guard decided to re-sign with the Brooklyn Nets. This offseason, the Mavericks will obviously pursue Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, the two All-Stars who will headline this summer’s free agent class. However, the up-and-coming Jennings would be a nice consolation prize if Paul and Howard decide to remain with their respective teams in Los Angeles.
Signing with Dallas would put Jennings in the country’s fifth-largest market. Jennings would then be able to run the pick-and-roll with Nowitzki, who is someone that the point guard grew up watching.
“That would be crazy,” Jennings said of forming a one-two punch with Nowitzki. “At the end of the season, we’ll just see what happens. As far as right now, I’m just trying to help this team get to the playoffs and win basketball games.”
Dallas is certainly intrigued by Jennings, which is why they have repeatedly been linked to the point guard. It doesn’t hurt that Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle is a big fan.
“I just like his dynamic athleticism, his ability to get on big rolls,” Carlisle said of Jennings. “A couple of games ago, he made his first nine shots against Brooklyn, or something like that. He’s an aggressive attacker, and he’s very difficult to guard because he can both get into the paint and kill you there, and then if you want to go under screens, he can jump up and knock down four or five threes in a row. He’s a load to deal with.”
This season, Jennings is doing his part to increase his stock heading into free agency by averaging 18.9 points, 6.1 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.9 steals. Because Jennings will become a restricted free agent, the Bucks will have the right to match any offer that he receives. However, Dallas will have a lot of money to throw at Jennings and could make this a very difficult decision for Milwaukee.
Odom Stepping Up for Clippers
When the Los Angeles Clippers acquired Lamar Odom in a multi-team trade over the offseason, they weren’t sure what to expect from the veteran forward.
It wasn’t long ago that Odom was an integral part of the Los Angeles Lakers championship teams in 2009 and 2010. He was named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2011, when he averaged 14.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and three assists for the Lakers.
However, last season was the worst year of Odom’s career. He was traded to the Mavericks and became a shell of himself, averaging career-lows across the board including 6.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists. He was miserable in Dallas and he didn’t hide it. After struggling on the court and becoming a distraction off the court, the Mavericks dismissed Odom from the team last April.
That could have been the end of Odom’s career, but the Clippers decided to trade for the 33-year-old. They hoped that a return to L.A. was just what Odom needed to once again become a significant contributor on a contending team. Odom struggled in the beginning of the season with the Clippers, mainly because he was out of shape, but has started to play better in recent weeks.
On Saturday, Odom had his best game as a member of the Clippers, posting 18 points, six rebounds and two assists in a win over the Jazz. While Odom hasn’t been the versatile threat that was as a key piece of the Lakers, he has been an excellent facilitator off of the Clippers’ bench. This season, it hasn’t been uncommon to see him play a handful of minutes and contribute four or five assists off the bench.
“He’s naturally so unselfish,” Jamal Crawford said of Odom. “That’s his first instinct, to pass the ball. But with him scoring and making plays like he has been doing, it takes us to another level.”
The Clippers took a chance on Odom, just as they did with unrestricted free agents such as Grant Hill and Matt Barnes, who were largely passed over last offseason. The team understands that if Odom can play close to his potential, they could be a much better team come playoff time. They view Odom as their X-Factor, a 6’10 point forward who can contribute in many ways and cause match-up problems.
“I just think he’s more comfortable now,” Crawford said. “He knows how important he is to this team.”
Odom may not be one of the Clippers’ stars, as he was with the Lakers, but he certainly has the ability to make the team better. During the postseason, when depth is extremely important and playoff experience goes a long way, the Clippers will count on Odom to be one of their key weapons off of the bench.
Harkless Making Most of Opportunity
The Orlando Magic needed Maurice Harkless to step up.
After trading J.J. Redick to the Milwaukee Bucks and losing Hedo Turkoglu to suspension after he tested positive for a banned substance, Orlando needed Harkless to fill the void on the perimeter and take his game to another level.
The 19-year-old has made the most of this opportunity and has thrived since his role with the Magic increased.
Harkless was an every-night starter for Orlando earlier in the season because of his defense and athleticism. Now, Harkless’ minutes have increased once again and he’s making an impact on both ends of the floor.
In February, Harkless has averaged 11.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals and one block. Since the All-Star Break, he has been averaging 16.8 points, seven rebounds, one block and one steal. The Magic have struggled as a team, but the team’s young players continue to develop and contribute on a nightly basis.
“J.J. played a major role,” Harkless said after the veteran wing was traded to Milwaukee. “A lot of his minutes will probably come my way and I just have to take advantage of that and step up.”
He has done exactly that, making a difference while continuing to be one of Orlando’s most efficient players. Not bad for a teenager who was starring for St. John’s around this time last year.