Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The new Most Fascinating Team in the NBA

Brandon Jennings first caught my attention at the time the above picture was taken. He was the guy with the '80s flat top who put on a show at the 2008 McDonald's All-American game. He re-entered my stratosphere when he decided not to go to Arizona and instead play professionally in Italy to prepare for the NBA. There were stories written about his struggles getting consistent playing time overseas, and then he dropped in the NBA Draft to the point that he had one of the stranger draft moments in years:

Well guess what? Upon marveling at Jennings' gumption, refusing to back down from and even spewing his own trash at Glen Davis and Kevin Garnett of the Celtics last night, I checked the standings. Brandon Jennings and the Milwaukee Bucks are fifth in the Eastern Conference and 10-2 since the All-Star break. After an initial burst out of the gate, peaking with Jennings' 50-point extravaganza, Milwaukee looked like it was fading. Now ... they are the most fascinating team in the NBA.

The Bucks have the 2010 version of Allen Iverson, an irreverent dude in the running for rookie of the year who currently sports a mohawk with a red streak down the middle and once got something called a Gumby haircut. The only arguments for Rookie of the Year come in the form of Tyreke Evans and Stephen Curry.

They also have Andrew Bogut, remember him? The Aussie from Utah who is quietly one of the top 10 centers in the NBA right now, averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds per game. Then there's the coach, Scott Skiles, the NBA's resident curmudgeon. The guy literally never looks happy, and probably scares children when they first meet him. But we saw what his ornery style did with the Bulls a few years back, it can work in spurts. Inevitably the players will tire of it, but this is Skiles' first year. As of now, it's infused a fresh scent of discipline that's reflected in Milwaukee's ranking as the 5th-best defensive team in the NBA this year.

But first and foremost, I like Jennings. He's got swagger, spunk, whatever you want to call it. I'm not sure he's a better young point guard that Derrick Rose, but he's really entertaining. Rose is blah. Jennings has friends who apparently like to record him saying things that could get him into trouble. Things like, "F____ (Ricky (Rubio) and "F___ the Knicks" for "skipping out on me", that they're "always gonna be beat." And now he's jawing at Kevin Garnett.

If you're here in DC, you'll fondly recall KG inspiring this great passage involving Andray Blatche and Flip Saunders after the Wizards blew a big lead against the Celtics the other days:

Blatche felt disrespected by KG, who was talking smack millimeters from Blatche's face. Wizards coach Flip Saunders felt Blatche made "terrible decisions ... woofing the whole time at Kevin Garnett. You can't do those things. He had 23 points with six minutes to go [but] he didn't piss a drop the last six minutes."

On the other hand, after Jennings helped the Bucks hold on for a two-point win over Boston, he started jawing at KG as they walked down the tunnel. "They’re known for punking people, but they weren’t going to come in here and just punk me, Jennings told reporters. "We’re competing. They’re a team that doesn’t take any mess, so we don’t either. I said once that happened, I said ‘Oh yeah, it’s on now.’"