Rapid improvement defining Bucks' Jennings
Maybe scoring 55 points some seven games into his NBA tenure wasn't the best thing that could have happened to Brandon Jennings. But the Milwaukee Bucks point guard who is now in his third year in the Association continues to show he is much more than a guy who could drop 50 on an opponent at a moment's notice.
"I think everybody expected me to keep scoring 50 points which is kind of unheard of. It was my seventh game into the NBA season," Jennings said. "I was still young and still learning. It was just one of those nights when I was on."
Through 11 games this year, the 22-year-old from Compton, Calif. is averaging 18.7 points, 5.3 assists, three rebounds and 1.6 steals, numbers that are definitely up in several areas when compared to his first two years in the league.
But to judge him just off numbers alone only tells half the story.
"He's getting better. He worked very hard in the offseason. His judgments are getting better," Bucks head coach Scott Skiles said. "He's getting on balance a little bit more in his shot. He's finishing better although I think he's still going to get better at that. He's got a ways to go there but he is finishing better and he's doing a nice job with kind of feeling the tempo of the game. If you don't see him every night and just look at the box scores, I know his stats are better as well but when you see him every night, you can tell he's getting better. He's putting in the time. He's looking at tape and improving."
Jennings chalks up much of his improvement to numerous sessions with Skiles during the last offseason before the NBA lockout began.
"We got a chance to work together for the whole month of June, just working on my shooting, taking my time and just critiquing some things that I need to change in my game. It was a great opportunity, the month of June, I wish it could have been longer but due to the lockout, I couldn't," he said.
However, Skiles isn't the only one who has noticed his improvement. One of his more veteran teammates, Drew Gooden, who is in his second year with the Bucks but 10th in the league, has also noticed a big difference.
"He's maturing as a player, doing a great job. He's just getting better. He's young. He came basically straight out of high school and improved his game," Gooden said. "Month-to-month, he's just been getting better and over the summer."
The 10-year NBA veteran even went so far as to compare to him to one pretty notable former teammate. "I think he's got a little Allen Iverson in him because of his quickness. He's learning how to draw contact and get to the free throw line a little more. He kind of reminds me of Allen Iverson," Gooden said.
And a big part of that improvement involves maintaining a simple mentality when it comes to how he approaches each and every practice as well as every game.
"I'm just trying to do whatever it takes to win. That's just the main thing," Jennings said. "Knowing it's a short season, the sense of urgency I have to try to go out there win every game, play hard and just compete. It's only a 66-game season. We don't have 82. Every night, I know I have to compete no matter what."
So how is he dealing with a truncated, 66-game regular season full of back-to-backs and even back-to-back-to-backs?
"It's been tough but as they say the young guys should have no problem (with so many games in such a short period of time)," Jennings said. "My thing is I just love to play the game of basketball and every time I step out there just go out there and play hard."
Still, there is one thing that continues to drive him, making it to the postseason. The young guard got a taste of playoff basketball as a rookie, starting seven games for the Bucks in the 2010 playoff, averaging 18.7 points, 3.6 assists and three rebounds, but like most who have been there, he wants a bigger taste next time around.
"I want to get there really bad," Jennings said. "I had fun. Of course, as a rookie I didn't really know too much about it but just being in the playoffs and noticing that you're one of the teams that made it and everybody else is at home watching is one of the best feelings."
Even with being considered one of the top young stars in the Association, this native of the Golden Bear State is far from full of himself. No, he is a humble and soft spoken as they come. In short, he is a guy who honestly looks to not like talking about himself. Instead, he chooses to let his play do all the talking and also likes to give credit to his teammates whenever possible.
"Other people can do that (talk about how great I am) because at the end of the day, you can't do it by yourself. Without 15 guys that we have in this locker room, nothing would be possible, especially with the coaches and the way they prepare for the team," Jennings said.