Brandon Jennings Playing Restricted Minutes as Shorthanded Bucks Struggle
Forget the fact that Milwaukee hadn't won in Phoenix since before Brandon Jennings was born (seriously -- Feb. 21, 1987), or the fact that the team was without productive bigs Andrew Bogut and Drew Gooden due to injury. Phoenix's defense has been much improved lately, and as recently as two games ago the Suns held the team that leads the league in field-goal percentage -- the Boston Celtics -- to a dismal 34.2 percent shooting. The Bucks? They're just 29th in the league in that same category -- ahead of only the horrific Cavaliers, who by the way have now lost 22 straight.
Combine all of that with the fact that Jennings was on a minutes limitation in just his third game back since missing 19 games with a broken foot, and it's probably not a surprise that the team trailed by as many as 25 points in the third quarter, and finished the game shooting 31.1 percent from the field, after spending most of it shooting in the high 20s.
"Very humbling game," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said afterward. "Obviously we're shorthanded but we didn't have a ton of energy, we didn't have great focus. We looked like mummies in the first half the way we were kind of walking around out there. We were really loose with the ball and took some terrible shots."
That about sums it up.
On to Jennings then, who looked decent at times, but is still clearly a long way away from being the player we remember from his stellar rookie campaign of a season ago. He played 17 of his 24 minutes in the first half, and finished with six points, six rebounds, five assists, and no turnovers, but knocked down just two of his 10 shot attempts.
"Three games back, I'm still on limited minutes right now because of the foot thing of course," Jennings told FanHouse, after he played exactly the half-game amount that Skiles promised beforehand. "So we're just progressing, progressing each day. Hopefully I can get back to playing the way I used to play. Maybe after this road trip, we'll see what the X-rays look like, see how it's healing up, and then go from there."
As for the part of his game that the injury has affected the most, Jennings said that it's hurt his quickness more than it has his shot.
"I think it's more just the (lack of) explosiveness right now that I'm not used to," Jennings said. "When I'm hitting the corners, of course I'm feeling the screw (in the foot) and it moving around a little bit, so I'm not really too comfortable hitting the corners like I'm used to."
Jennings will continue to have his minutes monitored, at least through this weekend.
"I think they want me to back him down again tomorrow night on the end of a back-to-back, and then we're going to get home at five or six in the morning on Friday," Skiles said, referring to the team's road game on Thursday night against the Warriors. "So he'll have Friday off, and then he'll play Saturday, and if he gets through that OK then the minute limitations will be gone."
Despite Milwaukee's struggles, Skiles isn't in any hurry to try to push Jennings to get all the way back before he's ready.
"It's not like he had a sprained ankle, he had a broken foot -- he's got a screw in there," Skiles pointed out. "I think they're being wise taking it step by step and making sure we don't have any significant setback."
As for Jennings himself, he seems fine with taking things slowly. But at the same time, he's happy to be back out there, and is even looking forward to participating in some of the festivities over All-Star weekend.
Jennings was originally chosen to compete in the dunk contest, but was replaced due to the fact that his foot probably wouldn't have been ready to go through something like that just a few short weeks from now. He will, however, be back to participate in the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge. As a member of the Rookie squad last year, he helped snap a seven-year winning streak by the Sophomores. And even though he's not currently at 100 percent physically, Jennings is definitely there from a confidence standpoint.
"We're going to do it again," Jennings said, when asked about how his Sophomore team will fare against this year's Rookies. "Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan, a couple other guys that we have that we did last year ... We're going to make sure we take care of business this year and beat the Rookies."