Brandon Jennings has talked openly in the past about his desire to play under bright lights on a big-city team.
Which is to say, he's never been particularly enthused to be a member of the Milwaukee Bucks.
It appears as though the feeling is mutual. The Bucks declined to sign Jennings to an extension before the Halloween deadline, thereby guaranteeing that he'll be a restricted free agent this summer.
That may be just as well for both parties. Jennings is a gifted player, albeit one whose penchant for shooting and scoring hasn't always jived so well with Milwaukee's vision of him as a pass-first point guard. He's managed to put the ball in the basket more efficiently over the course of his first three NBA seasons while his assist numbers have stagnated, if not declined to some extent.
The Bucks seemed to signal their displeasure with Brandon's progress (or lack thereof) this past March, when they traded for Monta Ellis, an undersized scoring guard in his own right. The idea, it seems, is to see how those two will mesh in the Bucks' backcourt.
If it works, great. If not, both will be free agents at season's end and the organization will have a chance to start over.
In a way, that extends beyond Jennings and Ellis. Head coach Scott Skiles and general manager John Hammond are both entering lame-duck seasons themselves, and the rest of the Bucks roster is loaded with cheap, young talent and inexpensive veterans with whom to fill potential trade packages.
In other words, the Bucks are bound for a full-scale rebuild if/when their 2012-13 season goes bust. Milwaukee has posted a winning record just twice over the last decade and hasn't won a playoff series since 2001.
And by the looks of things, that isn't likely to change during this campaign, not in an Eastern Conference that should be more competitive in the middle.
Chances are, Jennings won't want to stick around to see the Bucks' project through, not with such a depth of teams looking to spend this summer. As ESPN's John Hollinger noted, there could be as many as a baker's dozen of organizations with enough cap room to offer either a max contract or something close to it.
Furthermore, with so many other would've-been-restricted free agents—James Harden, Ty Lawson, Taj Gibson and Stephen Curry, to name a few—signing extensions and the top unrestricteds (i.e. Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Andrew Bynum, Josh Smith and Manu Ginobili) likely to stay put, the crop of talent seeking new homes during the summer of 2013 figures to be thinner than previously anticipated.
It's well within the realm of possibility that someone will offer Jennings an eight-figure salary to switch jerseys. The Dallas Mavericks, the Utah Jazz, the Charlotte Bobcats and the Atlanta Hawks could all be in the market for a point guard with panache, as might several others depending on how things play out in the coming months.
And depending on whether or not Jennings continues to improve, to the point where he solidifies himself as a 20-point, six-to-seven-assist-type player.
If he does, Jennings should have lucrative offers flying in from all directions. If not...well, there figure to be a few teams willing to take a chance on an athletic 23-year-old who takes his follicular cues from Kid 'n Play.
Either way, it would behoove Brandon and the Brew City to part ways at some point, be it early July or some time before the 2013 trade deadline. The two never seemed a good fit to begin with.
In the meantime, as Jennings told Charles F. Gardner of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
"...I'm kind of auditioning for other teams, too. The fact if they see what I can do, what I can bring to the table this year for the Bucks, anything can happen in the summertime. Now I'm just going to take it for what it is and ball out, man. Take this as it's my rookie year again."
And what a year that was for Brandon Jennings the first time around, when he put up 55 points on the Golden State Warriors and his future with the Bucks seemed bright. Seems like only yesterday...
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