Brandon Jennings(notes) ended last season as one of the hottest young players in the NBA. He had scored 55 points in a victory over the Golden State Warriors, helped the Milwaukee Bucks not only reach the playoffs, but also nearly upset the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, and finished third in Rookie of the Year balloting.
A little more than halfway into his second season, Jennings hasn’t received the same acclaim. He’s missed the past month with a broken left foot and the Bucks have struggled to build upon their success from last season.
“You know I’m real big on Twitter and a lot of people are taking me off their fantasy teams,” Jennings said. “A lot of people are saying they don’t want to watch the Bucks anymore and things like that. Of course, they’re probably not true fans.
“I do kind of feel like I’ve been forgotten so I have to come back and make my stamp again.”
The Bucks didn’t have center Andrew Bogut(notes) for their playoff loss to the Hawks, but were expected to start this season strong after strengthening their roster. Instead, they opened 11-16 and lost Jennings when he broke his foot on Dec. 18.
“Right now I’ve been taking a lot of beatings because our team hasn’t done what we did last year,” Jennings said. “The hardest thing is having one good year and not coming back and doing it again. Yes, there is a lot of pressure on me, but I’m up for it.”
Jennings played in every game last season and this injury is the first major one of his basketball career. He hopes to return by the end of the month, possibly as soon as Wednesday’s game against the Hawks. He spent part of his down time playing host to the Brandon Jennings Invitational in Milwaukee, which featured eight high school teams, including that of heralded prospect Austin Rivers, son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
Jennings also was supposed to participate in the All-Star dunk contest – much to the chagrin of several fans who have doubted his dunking ability. Jennings said the Bucks ultimately persuaded him to withdraw from the event after he’s worked hard to recover from his injury. But if it were up to him he would have participated because “everybody thinks I can’t jump anymore.”
With All-Star weekend being held in his native Los Angeles, Jennings is still hopeful of being invited to play in the rookie-sophomore game. His biggest goal, however, is to get back in the hunt and help the Bucks in their playoff chase. They began the week in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game out of the last playoff seed.
“Hopefully, we can get on track and cut the gap a little bit before the All-Star Break, get to seventh and eighth and see what happens in the second half of the season,” Jennings said. “Right now we haven’t really met our expectations.”