Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Let's Get (At Least) Two

Brandon Jennings returns to the Bradley Center again tonight as the 3-10 Pistons take on the 7-7 Bucks.  For whatever reason Jennings still has a place in my heart.  His rookie season was the first season I got Bucks season tickets and I always felt that he had the potential to be a gem.  He has been heavily criticized in recent years, but he's actually been pretty good over the last couple of weeks.

Jennings has been so good, in fact, that I've been wishing for a return to Milwaukee.  It seems that he does not get along very well with Stan Van Gundy.  Jennings had a bad game last time out, getting pulled with almost five minutes left in the THIRD quarter and not playing the rest of the game.  The Pistons were down almost 20 points when Jennings was pulled, but this was the very next game after Jennings was the Pistons' best player on the floor in a barnburner against Phoenix.  My hope is that Van Gundy would be amenable to taking back a couple of the Bucks' benchwarmers in return.  For example, John Henson and Nate Wolters for Jennings would work under the NBA salary cap.

From the Pistons' point of view, a Brandon Jennings for Wolters/Henson trade would give the Pistons some protection if/when Greg Monroe leaves, and would allow Stan Van Gundy's beloved DJ Augustin to assume full starting point guard duties.

For the Bucks, the benefits of a Jennings return are obvious.  Brandon Knight, while the Bucks' best player and an underrated asset, is not a great point guard.  Jennings operates with the vision and passing ability that Knight lacks.  The two could be a devastating guard combo; sort of like Dragic and Bledsoe in Phoenix.

The problem with the Bucks re-aqcuiring Brandon Jennings is that it would almost certainly cost the team money.  Jennings makes about $5.2 million more this season than the combination of Henson and Wolters.  The Bucks are last in the League in attendance and have resorted to 2-for-1 tickets for last Saturday's game and tonight's game.  (The ticket deal still left the team with fewer than 15,000 in the building against a playoff team on a Saturday night.)  This is after the new owners went on a hiring spree and moved into a nicer office space.  It is possible that the new ownership will want to see some evidence that Milwaukeeans will buy NBA tickets in large quantities before they decide to up the player payroll by another five million bucks.

As for the actual game tonight, this will be a tough one.  The Pistons have been the anti-Bucks so far. The Bucks have been getting teams that are injured or in bad spots on the schedule while the Pistons have been facing teams at full strength for the most part.  The matchup is also hard.  The Bucks still do not have an answer for tough rebounding teams.

Two years ago Sanders and Big Ers controlled the boards well against just about any team (Memphis, the Clippers, OKC and long time Bucks-killer Dwight Howard were the notable exceptions).  This year Ers and Larry haven't gotten it done.  Some of it is the system (Ers noted during media time yesterday that Coach Kidd's defensive system requires so much help and switching that the wings and guards need to contribute on the glass) and some of it is minutes (Jabari, Giannis and Zaza has all been getting lots of time as bigs), but it is possible that both men just aren't playing like they did at their peaks.  Whatever the reason for their inconsistencies, Big Ers and Larry will be needed in the paint tonight.

After the Bucks play tonight, they'll play another three games in the next four days.  The old four-in-five-nights is always a stressful part of the NBA schedule, but this particular stretch is especially worrisome.  The Pistons are featured a second time (Friday night in Detroit) and Houston comes to the Bradley Center on Saturday.  So that's three of the four games against teams that give the Bucks problems inside.  (The other game is against Minnesota, and they are a wildcard.  They have one of the worst records in the NBA, but they have played a killer schedule and they might be a good team.) If the Bucks are going to make the playoff run that we all hope for, getting a win or two from stretches like this four-in-five will be essential.

One last thing that should be noted before yours truly begins preparing to head to the game (if you are going tonight, email me or send me a message on Twitter so that I can say hello) is that Jabari has been playing better lately.  I've criticized the rook on this blog a few times and I'm not ready to anoint him as the savior just yet, but he has settled down.  He has a knack for getting buckets and he has shown much better toughness over the last several games.  He has yet to make a leap at the level that the Greek Freak has this season, but Parker deserves praise.  

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