Milwaukee Bucks coach Jim Boylan benched Brandon Jennings in the third quarter of Milwaukee's disappointing 100-92 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on March 27, and when the point guard lashed out after the game, his dissatisfaction joined a growing list of problems threatening to derail the East's No. 8 seed.
According to Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jennings' postgame comments indicated that he took the early hook personally:
This is the third time I've been benched in the second half and it hasn't been under (former coach Scott) Skiles...I don't see any All-Stars in this locker room so I think everybody should be held accountable, like anybody else. There's no maxed-out (contract) players in this locker room; there's no All-Stars. So don't try to put me on a pedestal and just give everybody else the freedom to do whatever they want.
Apparently, Jennings failed to notice that everyone else in the the locker room he referred to hadn't been 0-of-3 from the field in 17 listless and ineffective minutes. For that reason, it's hard to fault Boylan's decision.
But given Jennings' track record, the post-benching fallout can't be viewed as much of a shock, either.
Already stamped as a fairly self-absorbed individual, Jennings' recent comments about his future as a free agent certainly didn't do anything to change that.
Per Marc J. Spears of Yahoo!, Jennings said:
If I take the qualifying offer and become an [unrestricted] free agent there is no way I am coming back. There is no way....I'm not saying the Bucks aren't about winning. But I think [a title caliber situation] will help me, motivate my game and then you have to perform.
Jennings is entitled to play wherever he wants to, but it's hard to get past the way he seems to simultaneously fancy himself a superstar while lamenting the failure of his team to motivate him.
Quotes like that belie overconfidence at best, and delusions of grandeur at worst.
On balance, Jennings hasn't been a winning player this season. According to NBA.com, the Bucks' offense is almost exactly as productive with him on the floor as it is without him. But on defense, Milwaukee turns into a stopping machine with Jennings on the bench, posting an excellent defensive rating of 96.3 points allowed per 100 possessions.
When Jennings plays, Milwaukee permits 102.9 points per 100 possessions.
All told, those figures add up to show that the Bucks are markedly better when Jennings isn't in the lineup.
Milwaukee's streaky point guard seemed to shrug off his unhappiness in the Bucks' next contest against the Los Angeles Lakers on March 28, scoring 20 points in 32 minutes and generally appearing more mentally engaged.
However, it's worth noting that Jennings wasn't on the floor during the fourth-quarter surge in which the Bucks wrested control of the game away from the Lakers, benched once again in favor of teammate Monta Ellis at the point.
But one good night doesn't outweigh the mounting issues—one of which continues to be Jennings' attitude—that the Bucks are facing.
For one thing, the eighth-seeded Bucks are on something of a collision course with the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs, which is probably better than missing the postseason altogether, but not by much.
There's also plenty of uncertainty surrounding the team's future roster. With J.J. Redick primed to hit unrestricted free agency, Ellis likely to opt out of the final year of his deal and Jennings nearly certain to take his talents elsewhere, it's clear that the team's key players are not personally invested in the club.
Milwaukee ended its four-game skid by knocking off the exhausted and equally dysfunctional Lakers, but the larger issues within the team aren't going to disappear.
With a grab bag of hangups, an unhappy would-be star and a death sentence of a playoff seed in hand, the Bucks are barely clinging to stability. The win over Los Angeles calmed things down for now, but another outburst from Jennings could blow the whole thing up.