To plug the empty playing time behind Derrick Rose, New York has agreed to sign Brandon Jennings to a one-year deal worth $5 million. In addition to the history of injuries that have plagued Rose and Joakim Noah, this is another risky move by Phil Jackson.
Jennings is an eight-year veteran who knows his way around the league—he especially knows how to score. Whomever else Jackson can sign, at least he can be a proven point-maker for the Knicks second unit. This is a quality that should not be underestimated.
Even more important is Jennings’ ability to create his own scoring opportunities off the bounce. When the triangle fails to generate a good look, and the shot clock is about to detonate, Jennings undeniable talents to find his own is critical.
Moreover, with an almost entirely new cast of characters who will need lots of time to be comfortable in the triangle, Jennings one-man attack will be necessary early in the season.
His 35.4 accuracy on three-balls is a plus, as is his speed and quickness. Whereas Rose has the size to (try to) defend the league’s bigger point guards, and he has the wheels to at least avoid getting dusted by the many speedsters in the NBA—this is an important factor.
Jennings is an okay passer who takes fairly good care of the ball. Another significant plus.
It should be noted that the southpaw Jackson has always believed that lefty shooters have a built-in advantage, e.g., former Knicks teammates Willis Reed, Dick Barnett, Mike Riordan, Donnie May.
Even so, perhaps the most significant aspect of bringing Jennings to New York is that he comes cheaply. In today’s salary fantasia, very cheaply.
He’s really a shoot-first point guard who might have difficulty adjusting to the quick-hitting, team-oriented game plan that the triangle requires.
Also, Jennings isn’t a very good finisher as attested to by the fact that career-wise he makes only 41.3 percent of his two-pointers . Perhaps that’s because he’s probably an inch or two shorter than his listed height of 6’1”.
For the same reason, Jennings can easily be bullied on defense—backed down, say, to the foul line, and then watch helplessly as his opponents turn, jump, and shoot.
Jennings has always expressed a wish to play on “The Big Stage.” Hopefully, this 27-year-old will have the savvy to avoid the often dangerous nightlife in New York.
Remember last season when Derrick Williams had nearly a million dollars in jewelry stolen from his apartment by a pair of lady vultures? Or when Cleanthony Early was robbed and knee-shot in the wee hours?
Simply put, does Jennings shoot-first-and-never-ask-questions game plan fit into the new culture that Jackson is trying to establish?
We’ll find out soon enough.
Meanwhile, Jennings arrival in New York reminds me of the lyric to an old song:
If this isn’t love, it’ll have to do
Until the real thing comes along.
GRADE = C-