Gruman: Brandon Jennings’ departure a needed one

Athletes are in a tough spot in a setting like an introductory press conference, as everyone in the new city is expecting to walk away impressed. Such was the case Tuesday in Detroit, as Brandon Jennings talked a big game in his new digs, dropping a couple of lines sure to make all Milwaukee Bucks fans shake their heads and laugh. 

“The things I was doing in Milwaukee, I won’t have to do here,” Jennings said. “(Like) take all those bad shots, because we have so many pieces.”

He won’t have to take all those bad shots? So somebody was forcing Jennings to take those 20-foot, fade-away two-pointers with 20 seconds on the shot clock? Sure, Jennings sometimes had to bail the Bucks out late in the shot clock, but the majority of the shots labeled “bad” came on his own.

Jennings was confident in saying he’s going to be a totally new player next season. Because the Pistons are so talented, Jennings is suddenly going to eliminate the bad shots and change his offensive game for the better.

“I have that chip on my shoulder,” Jennings said. “This year I think you are going to see a whole different player. All the talent I have around me, the veterans that are in the locker room, all these guys played at a high level. I can just be myself and who I was five years ago when I was in high school, playing AAU basketball.”

That last line makes no sense. Why wasn’t Jennings playing as the player he wanted to be all along? From the day he was drafted 10th overall in 2010, Jennings had every chance to succeed in Milwaukee.

Scott Skiles handed him the ball as a 20-year-old and let him go. To say Jennings couldn’t be the player he wanted to be in Milwaukee is a ridiculous statement. Some would argue the Bucks let Jennings have too much freedom. Consistency wasn’t there in Jennings’ tenure in town, maybe he feels that prevented him from improving.

Brandon Jennings is not a bad player. He’s a good player, but not a franchise player. Part of the reason the marriage between the Bucks and Jennings didn’t work was because many expected and then hoped he would turn into a franchise player.

The Bucks have been starved of a star player since the day they traded Ray Allen. Michael Redd was a very good player, but he wasn’t a star. Early on in his rookie season, Jennings appeared to be the guy Milwaukee has been longing for.

And then came the 55-point game. That night seemed like the coming out party for the kid who called himself “Young Buck” at the time. Bucks fans became believers — this kid looked like the franchise player they had long desired.

While a memorable night, the fact that was Jennings’ most memorable moment in a Bucks uniform speaks to where things went from there. There was a whole lot of waiting for something to happen and nothing ever did.

As time wore on and disappointment grew, Milwaukee’s divorce from Jennings became more and more inevitable. While he’ll only be 24 years old at the start of next season, Jennings never was going to get any better in Milwaukee.  He had become a headache, one that wasn’t worth the trouble. Jennings is not a bad person by any stretch of the imagination. He did great work in the Milwaukee community and that should not be forgotten.

The franchise had to move on and chose wisely in doing so, but pulling the trigger didn’t come easy to general manager John Hammond.

“It was a very difficult decision because I really appreciate Brandon Jennings and care from him very much,” Hammond said. “I really appreciate what he brought to this organization for the last four years. I would call Brandon a warrior, a guy that competed every night and put forth a great effort for us.”

There’s a chance Jennings can figure it out in Detroit and really be serious about changing his game for the better. I’m just a skeptic of it ever happening. He’s known to talk a big game, just like he did again Tuesday when talking about Detroit’s frontcourt.

“They’re going to make my job a lot easier, and of course I’m going to make their job a lot easier,” Jennings said. “I guess you could say we can bring Lob City to Detroit this year.”

Just like his “Bucks in six” prediction before the playoff series with the Miami Heat, Jennings was probably just joking around. But stuff like this mixed with unfulfilled expectations is what wore his welcome thin in Milwaukee.

It’s crazy how ordinary his exit was after how remarkable his entrance was just four years ago, but it’s time to move on for both Jennings and the Bucks. It’s a fresh start for both parties, something Hammond discussed with Jennings right after the trade.

“We’ll see how it goes for him,” Hammond said. “We talked, and we talked about those sort of things. I wish him nothing but the very, very best. He deserves it.”

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