Pistons President Basketball Operations Joe Dumars introduced Brandon Jennings on Tuesday and the 23-year-old point guard had a refreshing assessment of his NBA career so far. Rather than ducking the chucker label he acquired while with the Milwaukee Bucks, he dealt with the issue head on and gave the Pistons fans added hope for next season.
“I definitely have to change my game, for this team, for my teammates, for everybody to be successful,” Jennings said. “The things that I was doing in Milwaukee, I won’t have to do here – take all those bad shots – because we have so many pieces.”
While Jennings is still young, he is not inexperienced. The point guard has five years in the pros including the season he spent in Italy instead of going to college. While he has established himself as a volume-shooting score-first point guard in the NBA, it was his experience that attracted Dumars. The Pistons organization is tired of rebuilding and wanted a point guard who could help win games now.
“The basic reason for doing the deal to bring Brandon here was that we looked at Brandon’s skill-set, we looked at what he has done on the floor for the past four years and we just felt like he would be a really good fit here in Detroit with the roster we have put together,” Dumars said. “He is a guy who can score and distribute and that was important to us. We also like the fact he has five years of pro experience, one in Italy and four in Milwaukee and we thought that he could step right in, hit the ground running and fit with the rest of our guys and help us immediately.”
From a ready-to-win standpoint, Dumars has upgraded the talent at the point guard position for this coming season. Jennings was able to lead a Bucks team that arguably wasn’t any stronger than the Pistons to the playoffs twice in the past four seasons and for a Pistons team with its own postseason hopes, finding a leader who has been there before should be a solid step in the right direction.
“I have helped the Bucks get to the playoffs twice already,” Jennings said. “So I just want to bring that winning mentality back to Detroit again.”
Jennings needed a change of scenery from Milwaukee. His game had stagnated under Head Coach Scott Skiles and his four years there looked like replicas of each other. A new Head Coach, new teammates and a new opportunity have Jennings excited about the coming season.
“I am really excited to be here,” Jennings said. This is a new beginning for me in my career. I think just being here is going to help my game and my career take it to the next level, especially with the pieces that we have.
“This will be my first year playing with a front court like this with Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith. I think we have the two top big men in the league, especially two young guys with a lot of potential, so they are going to make my job a lot easier and of course I am going to make their job a lot easier. I guess you could say we are going to bring lop-city to Detroit this year.”
Lob-city is a lot for a young veteran point guard that has averaged just 5.7 assists per game in his career to be expecting, but it’s hard not to get roped in by the enthusiasm, it’s nice to hear. Jennings will be coming to Detroit with something to prove – that he is not a chucker – and coming in with that chip on his shoulder isn’t a bad thing. It doesn’t bother Dumars at all either.
“I have that chip on my shoulder,” Jennings said. “But this year I think you are going to see a whole different player just with all the talent I have around me. The veterans that are in the locker room, guys like Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Joe Dumars and Mo Cheeks, all these guys play at high levels, so I can just be myself and be who I was five years ago when I was in high school.”
“Detroit has never been afraid to have guys who bring a little edge. That works in Detroit,” Dumars said. “I can’t speak for other places, but to bring guys in with edge, playing with a chip on their shoulders that has always been successful here, so we are not afraid to go down that road, that doesn’t dissuade us at all. We like guys like that.
“I do feel like the roster we have right now is a roster that can compete for the playoffs.”
Dumars is betting that the chip on Jennings’ shoulder and a change of scenery can change this highly-talented young point guard from the chucker he was into the scoring and distributing point guard Detroit needs to be a playoff team. Jennings recognizes what he needs to do as well, but it isn’t always easy to change. However, if Dumars, Cheeks, Wallace and Billups can lead Jennings away from the bad shots Jennings acknowledges he was taking in Milwaukee, this could actually work and Detroit will have their shot at the postseason this year.
Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre. A member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Stephen is the editor and publisher of Pro Bball Report.
You can follow Stephen on twitter @stevesraptors