By Rob Mahoney
Brandon Jennings rarely seems content as a professional basketball player, or at least as a member of the Bucks. Every few months brings a whisper of Jennings' dissatisfaction -- a veiled quote, a choice rumor, or, in this latest example, a pretty clear disagreement with Bucks interim head coach Jim Boylan. Jennings played a relatively disengaged first half in a loss to the Sixers on Wednesday, which apparently perturbed Boylan so much that he benched his lead guard outright just a few minutes into the second half. Jennings exited the game with 9:37 remaining in the third, and did not return for the evening.
As would be the case with most guards accustomed to playing heavy minutes, Jennings was not thrilled. But moreover, Jennings didn't appreciate the way in which he was singled out from his teammates, who had hardly played flawless basketball themselves in a 100-92 loss, Milwaukee's fourth straight overall. Via ESPN.com:
"I don't see any All-Stars in this locker room," Jennings said.
Jennings was held scoreless for the first time in 281 career games, missing all three of his shots while playing just 17 minutes against the 76ers. It marked the second rough game in less than a week for Jennings, who scored four points on 1-of-15 shooting in a loss to the Indiana Pacers on Friday.
"I think that everyone should be held accountable," Jennings said. "There's no maxed-out players in this locker room. So don't try to put me on a pedestal and just give everyone else the freedom to do whatever they want."
Jennings said he feels he is being singled out by Boylan.
"Of course," Jennings told the Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel. "This is the third time this has happened. We had a sluggish start but we still had a chance to win it. It was there for us to take."
Jennings isn't wrong, though Boylan was fairly forthcoming about the reason for his decision, unpleasant to Jennings as it might have been:
"I just felt like I needed to do something to energize our team," Boylan said. "When you play that position in this league, there comes with it a lot of responsibility. The talent at that position is outstanding. So you have to bring it every single night. If that's not happening, you need to do something."
Boylan can consider his message sent, though the choice to park Jennings on the bench may have cost the Bucks a winnable game and further irked an impending free agent with whom Milwaukee already has a relatively icy relationship. Between Scott Skiles and Boylan (who is functionally Skiles-lite), Jennings has consistently found himself on his coaches' bad side, which only fuels the belief that the 23-year-old point guard may look to relocate as soon as possible.
Jennings himself has gone out of his way to remind us -- and his team -- of that possibility, and he may have a chance to pursue that avenue this summer as a restricted free agent. The Bucks would have the right to match any formal offer sheet that Jennings signs, though the option remains for Jennings to play out his fifth NBA season on the qualifying offer -- a decision that would delay his eventual payday, but allow him more freedom in the summer of 2014 as an unrestricted free agent.
Whether he winds up in Milwaukee or elsewhere, Jennings is surely due for a lucrative, multi-year deal, particularly if he's signed via offer sheet. Although restricted free agency helps incumbent teams keep their young players beyond a four-year rookie contract, it also practically demands that other teams overpay in their courtship -- thus taxing the incumbents with a bloated deal if they hope to retain said player. But we're getting a bit too far ahead of ourselves; there doesn't seem to be anything altogether toxic in the relationship between Jennings and the Bucks, and Boylan may not even be on Milwaukee's staff come next season. But each of these little disagreements registers in a cumulative fashion and could set the stage for an eventual Jennings exodus.