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Thursday, July 10th, 2008 at 10:05 am  |  54 responses

Buck the System, F*ck the System

You do YOU, Brandon Jennings.

I sent Brandon Jennings an email the other night — partly to congratulate him for what he’s shown the balls to do, and partly to wish him well on what he’s trying to do now. By now you know what “it” is: Brandon Jennings is backing out on his commitment to Arizona to play professional basketball next season in Europe.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of people have a lot of opinions on this topic. Mine is already public knowledge.

Dan Shanoff shares my view of the situation.

His colleague Mike DeCourcy, meanwhile, is about 180 degrees away. I sat on a media panel with DeCourcy at the LeBron James Skills Academy over the weekend, and I respect dude’s experience and knowledge (although he does need to update the headshot on his column; having seen him three days ago, this photo looks to be about 20 years old). He makes a lot of very valid points here, and he might end up being right about all this. But I think he (and my colleague Lang) are missing a couple things in all this. And because Lang and I enjoy few things more than disagreeing with each other, I feel compelled to outline exactly what they’re missing below…

1, Brandon Jennings apparently did quite well on his standardized test the second time he took it, but because he hadn’t done well the first time, the testing company was suspicious and asked him to take it again. Anyone reading this who ever had to take the SAT or ACT once can imagine how much fun it wouldn’t be to have to take it two times, let alone three.

2, It’s not as if dude is googling the names of European club teams and cold calling their front offices in the hope of reaching someone who speaks English. There are people involved on his behalf — specifically Sonny Vaccaro, who knows everything about this game and everyone in it — working to make sure that it works. That’s not to say it WILL work, of course; the point is only that Brandon Jennings and his family aren’t the only ones with something at stake here. Sonny’s been dreaming of pulling off a move like this for YEARS, and he’s been laying the groundwork for a minute. His legacy is on the line to an extent, and I promise you that’s not something he takes lightly. The people involved in making this happen know what they’re doing, and they’re doing everything they can to make it work. That’ll almost definitely mean built-in endorsement cash that no flaky Euroleague GM will be able to flake out on. It’ll mean TONS of media coverage, which will raise Brandon’s profile and long-term earning potential. And it’ll mean working with a European team that has a vested interested in making this work for them, as well.

3, All this talk of Brandon Jennings being exposed by a year in Europe is valid, but only to a point. Put it another way: Did anyone watch this year’s NBA Draft? Particularly the part in the first round when some dude named Alexis Ajinca was taken 20th overall by the Bobcats? I hadn’t heard much of Ajinca before the Draft, and I don’t know much about him now. But I do now this: In two professional seasons in France, Ajinca averaged a whopping 4.7 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. So tell me, did Alex get “exposed” by all that top-notch competition in what is probably Europe’s third or fourth (or fifth?) best league? Well, I imagine the folks in the Bobcats’ front office (whoever they might be) would argue that Ajinca has a ton of potential — that he’s a project, and they drafted him as such. Besides, he’s a seven-footer.

Right. So was Frederic Weis.

The point is that plenty of European cats come over here with virtually no real resume but tons of potential and find themselves getting drafted in the first round — and then never pan out. Brandon may not average a triple-double next season — for all I know, he might not average 10 minutes per game — but he’s already got a resume as the best point guard in the 2008 high school class, having put up ridiculous numbers for one of the best prep programs in the country. NBA folks are well aware of this, and they’re not likely to have forgotten it by next summer, regardless of whether he lights Europe on fire in his rookie season.

Again, this may not work. Brandon Jennings may very well go to some team in Italy or Spain and struggle against the older and more physical competition. He may get stuck with an unsympathetic coach or jealous teammates who don’t care if he succeeds, and in fact may not want him to (reverse Toni Kukoc, anyone?). Maybe the cultural differences will make it hard for him to settle in and focus on his game. Or maybe he’ll just turn out to be a flashy high school kid whose game simply isn’t ready for the rigors of pro ball. All of these are real possibilities.

Personally, I think Brandon is good enough and confident enough to make this work, and I hope like hell he does. I can’t wait to watch him try.

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  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Spot on, Ryan. Best of luck to dude and yeah, having the balls to do it is extremely risky but the risk/reward benefit of it is worth the “gamble”.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Khalid Salaam

    True

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    PREACH!

  • http://fjkdlzf.com Jukai

    YOU’RE WRONG AND A SPAWN OF THE DEVIL

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Thank you. Thank you all. If I may reluctantly share some praise, Russ’s point on Lang’s blog about how some of these kids might actually want to STAY in Europe — when faced with the option of, say, playing in Barcelona or Madrid or Tel Aviv instead of f*cking Milwaukee — is a great one, too. But again, this is really about me. Keep the love coming!

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    I love the fact that Ryan uses “cat” in most of his work. “Dog” was always such a pain in the ass, but “cat” was always a Northeast thing.

  • http://www.ballerblogger.com Brandon Hoffman

    There’s no questioning his talent. My only concern is his size. He’s listed at 6-0, 170 pounds. The European game is much more physical. It’s not like what the NBA has become — where you can’t touch a guy penetrating to the basket. You can body people up in Europe. Chris Paul, a legitimate MVP candidate last season, stuggled at times during the 2006 FIBA World Championship because of his lack of size.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Ryan has no shame. Oh, and I second you on all of this.

  • http://www.ballerblogger.com Brandon Hoffman

    Having said that, I’m ecstatic to see him sidestep the NBA’s age limit rule. There isn’t a more hypocritical organization in the world than the NCAA. And the NBA instituted the rule for no other reason than to line their pockets. I’d love to see it backfire on both of them.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ H to the izzo

    Would Brandon be Ok with €300 a week,a part time job and free accommodation?If so,I’m ready to make an offer.As you probably know by now,I agree with you on this.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Looking forward to reading this Ryan.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Someday I will be able to make points as well as Ryan does. In the meantime I’ll stay happy that he works for SLAM.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    and….. yes I enjoyed it.

  • the Monty Pistons

    The french league sucks because club pay more tax than abroad. Therefore they have less money to pay players’ salary. That’s what they say anyway.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    Its starting to bother me that no one has made a “My Prerogative” joke about Jennings. Or maybe I havent been paying enough attention. And THe Sports Gal is still my tenderoni.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    I’d rather play in Milwaukee than Oklahoma City. Um, I think. And I’d rather play somewhere like Majorca than either of those places. Not that I’ve been there. The NBA has long been dominant because of the absurd salaries and the notion that this is where the best competition is. Now, as the competition level draws ever closer (no, we’ll win gold again, seriously!) and the dollar continues its death plunge, I’d imagine Europe becoming a more and more viable destination by the day. Beautiful cities, even more beautiful women, a currency that works. Forget the high schoolers, wait until free agents start pulling stakes for brighter shores.

  • http://nothinpersonal8.blogspot.com/ nothin personal

    @ Ryan: Two points: Unlike in kukoc’s case, euroclubs are having American players for the past 30 or more years. There is no chance to be hostile because of that. Jealousy is another thing, and it’s omnipresent, more so in the states.
    As for not being ready, well, if he is not, there is nothing that he can do to hide that.
    P.s. The last time a huge “potential” guy came to Europe, was Kandi man, already drafted at #1, during the lockout. He struggled mightily in perhaps the top club at the time, Virtus Bologna, and we all know how his NBA career (not yet) ended up. So, I guess my point is, if you suck, you are gonna suck wherever you go!

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Russ just sold me. I’m moving to Madrid.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Thanks Myles. Check your gmail.
    And Russ, in an annoying attempt to steal my shine, makes a point I hadn’t thought of. The dollar is to the Euro what the peso is to the dollar.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    np, I realize the Kukoc metaphor is imperfect, and I didn’t mean it literally. The comparison is sort of valid, though — where pretty much all the Americans who’ve gone to Europe previously have been ex-college players who go they’re because they’re not NBA ready (and thus do so with relative anonymity), Brandon’s this hot young prospect with the potential for NBA stardom. Mostly, though, we agree — exposed is exposed in any language.

  • http://fjkdlzf.com Jukai

    Wow, I’d love to join on this whole thing too but I’m not sure there’s room on Ryan’s ass anymore

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ H to the izzo

    NP:That was mainly because Kandi Man wasn’t very good at basketball,Brandon appears to be.And it seems pretty unlikely he’ll end up with a Barcelona,Juventut or CSKA,so I doubt he’ll get exposed in that respect.

  • http://nothinpersonal8.blogspot.com/ nothin personal

    Another point I want to make, is that he can be paid serious money (he could get (1 mill euros in his sleep, maybe two) but he should pass up on the money, if that means he can get in an ideal situation. The goal is making the Nba here, not immediate gain.

  • http://nothinpersonal8.blogspot.com/ nothin personal

    Joventut is not top notch. it could be a good fit, but it could also be disaster. Read my comment over at the links about Jennings playing with Rubio

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ H to the izzo

    Well they finished 2nd in the ACB with a young stacked team,I don’t thin Brandon could find a place on the team.

  • Z

    @ Izzo : Jennings would find a place in the active roster of pretty much any NBA team right now. I think he could do the same for a team overseas.

  • http://nothinpersonal8.blogspot.com/ nothin personal

    ACB is that kind of league, anything can happen, top’s to bottom, every team is legit. As for what happened last year, things in Europe change fast. I like the Joventut roster right now, and I like Huertas at the two, but they lost Rudy Fernandez. They usually develop youngsters, they don’t have the money to bring finished products in. the only problem is, they all ready have a goldmine in their hands(Rubio), and if things don’t work out, they might damp “Jennings project”, and focus on their other prodigal PG. Anyway, we’ll learn his decision soon enough, and then we’ll have something to comment on. speculation doesn’t help!

  • lockedc

    i think he shouldn´t go to a top team in spain,greece or italy.he should go to a team where he gets at least 20minutes per game,with a good coach so he can develop.try germany.we got some good coaches and he can play uleb-cup or something

  • http://myspace.com/mrdyalekt d.Y.

    Gotta disagree with nothin. The goal is to make a career playing basketball, and enjoy life. Make those euros young man. Even if he bombs and has no chance of playing in the NBA, there’s a good shot that he’ll have made enough scratch that he can afford to go to college for something else, without having to worry about losing his ‘ship if he blows out a knee, or worrying about taking easy classes because of crazy practice schedule. Who knows, maybe he’ll love it out there and stay for a while, testing out the NBA in his 30s on some Sabonis stuff. It’s a big world, and the US is not the center. Bring power back to the people. Buck the System indeed. Oh and Farmer… good stuff.

  • http://www.shawnkempsoffspring.com Tariq

    I don’t know who this Jenings kid is, but all the best nonetheless. Also, I have no opinion regarding his European sojourn. Nevertheless, I disagree with Ryan just because.

  • http://www.shawnkempsoffspring.com Tariq

    dY: Unfortunately, the good ol US of A IS the f*cking center of the world. I’m fine with that, but only have a problem with the political and corporate aspects. I like apple pie and americana and junk.

  • http://www.shawnkempsoffspring.com Tariq

    “Buck the System, F*ck the System” reminds me of that track from Supreme Clientele called “Buck 50″. Was that a subliminal 50 diss?

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    It was not, but nice reference.

  • http://nothinpersonal8.blogspot.com/ nothin personal

    D.Y. it’s a big world, but you can only make 25 mill a year playing basketball in the NBA!

  • http://myspace.com/mrdyalekt d.Y.

    right right 25 mil in the NBA, for about 20 guys, max. If I have the option of making $5 mil or $ 4 mil in euros… i’m taking the euros, plus, think about quality of life. i think russ said a minute ago that he’d rather live in menorca than milwaukee.. i echo the heck out of that, so even if the money is even or slightly less… i’m going with the place i want to live.

  • http://nothinpersonal8.blogspot.com/ nothin personal

    I hear you, and I respect that. Plus, Greek food rocks. That’s how Diamntides is thinking and doesn’t even consider the NBA!

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com/ albie1kenobi

    i’m officially on the Jennings Euro bandwagon. let’s get the kid a diary in Slam regardless.

  • http://nothinpersonal8.blogspot.com/ nothin personal

    Jemelle Hill wrote an article picturing the lowest paying (and totally inorganized) clubs in europe, and expects us to believe that a blue-chipper like Jennings would ever go to play to a up-in-the-mountains Turkish team, or a bottom feeder in greece or something. I can guarantee that top european clubs are as organized as the NBA, with less spoiling the players and more discipline. I believe he could only gain from this elements.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ H to the izzo

    Yet another reason not to read Jamele Hill.

  • http://myspace.com/mrdyalekt d.Y.

    Yeah Izzo, I’ve officially stopped believing in her existence after that moronic “Celtics winning mean the West is overrated” article.

  • http://www.shawnkempsoffspring.com Tariq

    Hey, Milwaukee is pretty sweet, fellas. It beats the hell out of friggin Buraidah. Or Exeter for that matter.

  • http://www.shawnkempsoffspring.com Tariq

    You sure Ryan? I suspect it could have been a response to “How to Rob”, but maybe not.

  • http://www.shawnkempsoffspring.com Tariq

    Things you can find in Milwaukee but not in Exeter:

    1- Pickles.
    2- Green Bay Packer jerseys.
    3- People who are not ugly on the outside.

  • http://firemitchkupchak.com Jackie Moon

    It’s a win-win for Jennings and the team he signs with – Jennings gets paid, and the team will get extra exposure from the States.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    I thought you were asking if MY reference was a 50 dis. Curtis doesn’t even occur to me as someone to spend time dissing. But yeah, I’m pretty sure Ghost was talking to him.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Tariq, you suck.

  • http://www.shawnkempsoffspring.com Tariq

    Teddy:

    I can assure you that your statement is false if you mean “suck” in the literal sense. If you’re talking figuratively, I concede the point.

    P.S.
    Teddy, you’re a F***d***x***r*.

  • http://www.shawnkempsoffspring.com Tariq

    Ryan:
    You’re right about Curtis.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    huh Tariq? whats the *’x’ mean? I’m slow…

  • http://evolve.aokhost.com/logs/?p=6 Sylvio Mac

    I’d say he does the college route. At least he’ll get more coverage. And then if his stock isnt high enough for draft after one yr, THEN go to europe and light it up. I’d rather live in europe than North America anyway, but thats just me talking

  • http://evolve.aokhost.com/logs/?p=6 Sylvio Mac

    and oh yea, watch out for mike rosario. kid can play

  • drew

    he need to hit the books

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