Game Notes: Bucks at Bulls
Brandon Jennings and the Bucks make me eat my words.
For the second time in two weeks, a visiting team has come to Chicago and clinched a playoff berth against the Bulls. Last week it was the Phoenix Suns. Last night it was the Milwaukee Bucks. Sitting one game behind the Toronto Raptors in the standings for the eighth and final playoff spot, it was a must win game for the Bulls. Add to the fact that Toronto played Cleveland last night and during the game Chris Bosh literally went out with a broken face from an errant elbow, this was the perfect opportunity for Chicago to gain some ground.
But it was not to be. The Bucks squeaked out a victory and assured themselves a spot in the postseason.
Before the start of the regular season, SLAMonline did “30 Teams, 30 Days” which consisted of season previews of all the teams in the League. I had the assignment of writing about the Milwaukee Bucks. In my write-up, I said things like Brandon Jennings was good, but he wasn’t quite ready and I predicted that Milwaukee would go 27-55 on the season and as far as the playoffs, my exact words were, ”Don’t even think about it”.
Last night I had a slice of humble pie to go with the words I was munching on.
As he walked off the United Center floor, Brandon Jennings held a “Fear The Deer” sign that a fan had given him and in the locker room he was mimicking people like myself who said that they wouldn’t make the playoffs and that they wouldn’t win more than 30 games. I had a chance to talk to him about his frist season in the NBA and this is what he had to say…
On his own and the Bucks doubters:
“I’ve been talking about making the playoffs since the first day I got drafted to the Bucks. I wanted to change the franchise around and try and make the playoffs here and we accomplished it. I think I reached all of my goals this year which was, first of all, coming in here and proving everybody wrong [about me], second, coming in and letting people know that I could lead a team to the playoffs, and third, getting to the playoffs. And I did them. I reached my goals this year and I’m happy about it.”
On his biggest adjustment to playing in the NBA:
“I think the main thing was just the travelling part. I wasn’t used to travelling that much and playing games back-to-back. And even though I played a year in Europe, [in the NBA] you’re going against the best guys every night. It’s an up-and-down season and it just depends on how mentally tough you are and how tough you are to keep finishing games.”
On the impact of Andrew Bogut’s injury:
“Other guys just have to step up. It’s not just about one person; we’re a real talented team. One night, this guy might get off and then the next night we might have four or five guys in double figures. Every night you just don’t know what you’re going to get from us.”
On how he’s grown as a basketball player:
“I think just my understanding the game of basketball and knowing that at the beginning of the season everybody thought I was just a scorer. Then when I turned it around everybody was like ‘Oh, now he’s a true point guard?’ But that’s my game.”
On the type of player he sees himself as:
“I’m the guy that gets people involved and gets my teammates going. That’s the only way we were going to win this year and I knew that I had to do that.”
On the biggest sacrifice he made during the season:
“I sacrificed trying to put up big numbers to help the team win. I think a lot of people got my game wrong. Everybody was calling me the next AI because I was out there scoring all types of points, but that wasn’t really my game. I felt like it wasn’t helping the team. So I figured, why not just get back to playing the way I know how to play which is getting my teammates involved and I felt like it was helping the team and I just stuck with it. We were on a road trip and we were losing all these games and all I was doing was scoring, scoring, scoring, but not winning. So I felt like instead of just trying to get my stats, why not just help the team win and that’s what I’ve tried to do this year.”
I’m man enough to admit when I’m wrong and I was very wrong about both Brandon Jennings and the Milwaukee Bucks. He’s very ready to lead a team as he’s shown this season and the Bucks turned out to be better than I thought they’d be. There’s no exact science to predictingwhat a team will do or how a player will perform, but it’s always a pleasure for me to see expectations exceeded.
Congratulations and good luck to both Brandon and the Bucks for the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs.