June 29, 2009
After all, the kid's public life thus far has hardly been the stuff of PR dreams. Consider that ...
*Jennings failed to acquire the necessary test-based certification needed in order to play for the University of Arizona.
*Jennings decided to forgo the junior college route as a result, deciding instead to play a year of basketball overseas before declaring for the NBA Draft. Not necessarily a bad thing, but atypical none the less.
*Jennings complained about his playing time and overseas experience in an ESPN the Magazine article midway through his lone season with Lottomatica Roma. Again, well within his rights, but griping pro athletes have rarely won over the American public.
*Jennings showed no hesitation in bashing fellow draftee-to-be Ricky Rubio(notes) after a workout with the Sacramento Kings, either uncaring or unaware (or both) that the cameras and tape recorders were running. With Jonny Flynn(notes) trying desperately to stifle laughs at his side, Jennings referred to Rubio as "all hype."
*Jennings and his agent decided to decline an invitation to the NBA Draft after failing to secure a promise that he would be taken as a lottery selection, despite rampant rumors that the Milwaukee Bucks were not going to let him fall past 10th in the Draft, supposedly choosing instead to watch the Draft with friends and family. When Milwaukee chose Jennings 10th, he made his way into the Draft and staged an awkward initial meeting with David Stern.
*Jennings' apparent conversation with rapper Joe Budden took to the YouTube airwaves on Saturday afternoon. Though it hasn't been confirmed that it is actually Brandon in the conversation, it does sound quite a bit like him, and the subject matter — fighting for playing time with Bucks restricted free agent guard Ramon Sessions(notes), being passed over by the New York Knicks, working for head coach Scott Skiles — seems awfully appropriate for someone in Jennings' position. And awfully vulgar. And awfully ill-timed.
Jennings, Jennings, Jennings. Three more of those bullet points with his name on them, in fact.
The Budden controversy is perhaps the most lurid of all, at least to most sensibilities. I'm not going to pretend to know what sort of place a guy like Budden has in the hip-hop strata, my knowledge of that thread of music fell apart once the Native Tongues crew sort of fell apart, but apparently the guy is a bit of a joke by now.
And for Jennings to be duped by him into allowing a private conversation to be heard by thousands over YouTube, while repeatedly bashing Rubio (again), sniffing at proven NBA vets like Sessions and Chris Duhon(notes), assuming a starting role ahead of Luke Ridnour(notes), while continually using a stream of expletives ... well, it's not the best of starts. And for Jennings, it seems awfully typical.
But, to me, that isn't a bad thing.
This is typical. Another bum move in a series of bum moves for a kid I've only known about for a little over a year. But we're smart enough to appreciate the complexity of the situation, I hope, without making excuses, but without damning Jennings at the same time.
He failed his SATs. It happens. Happened to Kevin Garnett(notes). Happens to a whole lot of smart, potentially-successful and driven kids every year. Instead of heading off to JC and ending up making his NCAA splash under Bob Huggins or John Calipari's "guidance" in 2009-10, Jennings followed some advice and rocked off to Italy, losing the lame façade of the "student/athlete" along the way. We're not used to that. I kind of like that.
We're used to and usually don't respond well to players complaining about playing time, which is what Jennings did while overseas, but we also have to remember that those complaints were matched with honest appraisals of what the pros in Europe were putting Jennings through, and how he appreciated it. The fact that he complained about late checks, well, wouldn't you? And we have no idea what the coaching staff was like over there.
Before the Draft, aren't you supposed to be coached by your representation to offer the sort of milquetoast answers that fans claim not to want to hear from pointed questions, yet swiftly repudiate once they actually leave an athlete's mouth? I'm sorry, but if you don't have your client tossing out harmless answers to the questions like the ones posed in Sacramento by June, then you haven't been doing your job.
Same for the Draft night brouhaha. If I've read that Milwaukee is hot after Jennings, regardless of what dominos may fall, shouldn't you be on top of that and accept the invite?
The Budden ordeal seems to be jock-sniffing at its worst. A B-level rapper, past his prime, showing off a supposed relationship with a 19-year old kid/athlete, taking advantage of him by leaving him unaware (apparently) of the rolling YouTube tape.
After all, if Budden had cleared the discussion for public consumption with Jennings beforehand, would Jennings have gone off? And wouldn't Budden have kept the discussion online? If he had permission, the thing would still be up.
And, really, how many employees have scoffed at the idea of another employee grabbing the sort of promotion that they're looking for while in private conversation? How many employees tend to rip on workers of a similar stature that doing the same job with another company? How many of us tend to work a bit blue, when in casual, comfortable conversation?
Jennings has to be know better, pretty damn soon. But this also reeks of someone being let down by people he should be able to trust, by now. Shoe-merchants, both past and present. Coaches. Agents. Older men, like Budden. If these men can't be on top of it, I'm sorry, but I'm not going to rip Jennings too much. Not at his age.
He has to wise up, make no mistake, but he's also a few months removed from being able to work day-to-day with a fellow by the name of Scott Skiles. Now, this could go either way. Skiles has let some youngsters down in the past, for no good reason that I can understand. But attitudes, for both sides, could turn around quite a bit. Here's hoping for the best.