Milwaukee’s strange and troubling four-year marriage with Brandon Jennings came to a bittersweet end Tuesday, as the team sent Jennings to Detroit in a sign-and-trade deal in exchange for Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton, and Viacheslav Kravtsov. While the future of the two teams after the trade will continue to be up for debate as we enter the upcoming season, the overall impact Jennings had in Milwaukee is already set in stone as he moves on to the Motor City.
In the past decade of the Bucks organization, there really hasn’t been a more polarizing figure than Jennings. While Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut might have had a bigger impact on the overall fabric of that past ten years, Jennings has always had that big fish in a small pond mentality since he arrived in Milwaukee in the summer of 2009. That frame of mind trapped Milwaukee in a deep hole because there was always that temporary feeling when it came to Jennings, which has always been unsettling. While his skills as a basketball player were clearly apparent, there was always that realization that he would reach his full potential with another team.
Despite the polarizing feeling that most fans had towards Jennings’ future with the team, he still produced some lasting memories as Milwaukee’s starting point guard – beginning with his opening moments as an NBA player during the 2009 NBA Draft when he showed up late to take a picture with commissioner David Stern after being selected by Milwaukee with the 10th overall pick.
Just like most new and budding relationships, the feelings between Jennings and the Milwaukee Bucks organization were as promising as the young point guard. It began, of course, with his glorious opening to the season in November, highlighted by a 55 point barrage against Golden State. But coinciding with his electricity was extreme inefficiency (37% from the field) which has stuck with Jennings as he enters his fifth season in the NBA.
Besides that explosion against the Warriors, the shining memory of Jennings’ career with the Bucks ironically coincides with Andrew Bogut’s career-altering injury, as it gave way for him to lead the Fear the Deer squad into the playoffs. Despite losing the first-round series in seven games against Atlanta, Jennings was the captain who led the injury-plagued Bucks to within a game of what would have been a second round matchup against Orlando.
With Andrew Bogut working to recover from the aforementioned injury, Jennings and a cast of the newly-acquired John Salmons, Drew Gooden and Corey Maggette were looking to build on the momentum from the Fear the Deer run. Safe to say, that plan quickly turned south, as Jennings suffered a broken foot that hampered him for the remainder of the season. That injury, Bogut’s continued recovery and the overall offensive stubbornness of Scott Skiles (team finished last in the league in overall PPG) led the Bucks down a horribly mediocre path that became all too familiar to fans.
After a rough start during the strike-shortened 2011-12 season, John Hammond and the Bucks pulled the trigger on a risky deal when they sent the ailing Bogut to Golden State for Monta Ellis. More than anything, that trade will probably have the biggest impact on Jennings’ legacy as a member of the Bucks because of how unique and risky it was to combine the two players. While that overall experiment eventually collapsed in the face of the Bucks organization and its fanbase, Jennings being combined with Ellis will probably be the biggest lasting image of his time in Milwaukee.
For better or worse, Jennings will probably be remembered as one of the more memorable point guards in team history without being that terrific. Perhaps his association with Monta Ellis, or 55-point barrage, will continue to resonate with Bucks fans for years to come, despite his inefficient play. But he brought a certain personality and flavor that was unique to the Wisconsin area. Even though he’s now headed East to Detroit to join the revamped Pistons, Jennings will always have a special place in the minds of Bucks fans – whether it be negative or positive