“They” say that it takes around 30 days to make/break a habit.
That oft-repeated cliché only applies when someone overcomes a relapse opportunity in the face of adversity; therein lays the real challenge to prove whether you’ve successfully built a good habit or are doomed to start over at day one. That ability to make these efforts permanent, subconscious tendencies is the difference between a successful New Year’s resolution and next year’s problem.
People know cigarettes are not easy to give up, psychologically and physically. But the same rings true for any conditioned habit or addiction, and like it or not, bad habits that impede an athlete’s growth fall into that category. That somewhat explains why Brandon Jennings reverted back to his shoot-first dominant game in the Milwaukee Bucks’ back-to-back losses to the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz.
Down three against the Nuggets and in possession of the ball as time expired off an in-bound pass, Jennings opted for a contested three, passing up a wide open Carlos Delfino standing on the left side of the perimeter. He was even worse in Salt Lake City, shooting 21% (4-19), including 0-7 triples that increased his three point-less streak to 0-11 between both games.
Behind-the-back fakes, no-look passes, speedy transitions, and wraparound lay-ins have all dotted the early season, three-game Brandon Jennings highlight reel. These shades of 2009 have sparked conversations about Jennings’ “when he gets there,” instead of the “if he gets there” discussions we’ve all grown tired of having over the past two years.
Yet over the first two matchups of a five-game road swing out West, Jennings decided to put the blinders back on, and revert to his problematic tendency to dominate offensive possessions when the Bucks are trailing. Jennings’ on-court contradictions are more frustrating than the problems he had as a rookie and sophomore, in part because his court vision and role as a facilitator looked better in three games than it had in most of the previous 145.
It would be unfair to call Brandon Jennings selfish in the sense that he consciously prefers to leave his teammates standing on islands dispersed around the court. Rather, he’s following a well-treaded path of reflexively turning to a more comfortable, familiar style of play when things get tough.
Jennings isn’t dumb; he acknowledges flaws in his game, and consciously works to turn them into strengths. He’s has been fairly candid about his shooting problems (he wants to shoot above 40% this year, which is a surprisingly realistic goal to set for someone that loves writing oratory checks).
At Bucks media day, Jennings expressed a desire to finish better around the rim and get to the line at a more frequent pace. For the most part, he has improved in both areas (.8 more shots and .5 more makes at the rim, as well as .7 more free throw attempts per game).
However, fan expectations for a franchise cornerstone will naturally be much higher, especially since Jennings is currently entrenched in his third NBA season, and one in which the bar has been raised simply based on historical precedent set by Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, and other elite point guards.
We’ve already seen signs of Brandon Jennings forming new, better habits on the court. The question now is whether he’ll get past that 30 day hump and make them permanent habits, or relapse into his shoot-first self, all but guaranteeing the dreaded “B” word shows up on his Wikipedia page within the next few years.