On Thursday night, Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings was informed that he was not chosen amongst the seven All-Star reserves for the Eastern Conference squad, in spite of the fact that his improving offense and pressurized defense would have made his inclusion a deserved honor. Later, on Thursday night, Jennings found himself in the throes of a bit of a firestorm, simply by saying the same thing about his impending free agency that every basketball player has always said, in the history of forever and ever and ever. And maybe less.
"I am going to keep my options open, knowing that the time is coming up,'' Jennings said in an email interview. "I'm doing my homework on big market teams. I'm not saying I won't (sign an extension with the Bucks) and I'm not saying I will,'' he said. "I'm just keeping my options open.''
Pretty unremarkable stuff … save for the "big market teams" mention. Broussard pushed that part of it in his tweet announcing the column, and ESPN mentioned it in the headline and pull quote. That's what sets it apart, especially when you include the ESPN'izing of things that includes formulating story lines to speak directly to the sort of NBA fan who doesn't watch every darn game, but knows enough about Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard to understand that they wanted to leave their small-market teams for big-market opportunities elsewhere.
(Except that Anthony, Paul and Howard signed a second contract with their small-market teams, because those teams were really, really good at the time. We'll get to that in a second.)
Beyond that, the quote is of no significance. A guard on a capped-out team with no real future and an at-times franchise center in Andrew Bogut that has had terrible luck with injuries wants to keep his options open and not commit to staying with a team with an iffy (at best) future? We'd be checking Brandon's temperature if he wasn't keeping his options open.
Was he actually talking about big markets at all? Check out his Twitter account from Friday morning:
We're pretty sure that "idc" means "I don't care," but it does seem an odd thing to bring up to Broussard if you don't really care. Broussard has had no qualms trying to make big splashes and get on "SportsCenter" over the last few years, but he's not going to outright misquote the guy. Especially if the interview is done via email, where the proof is in the pudding after just a few scrolls through a smartphone.
The line in Friday night's cable lineup on ESPN will draw directly back to Paul, Anthony and Howard. Those four may covet bigger cities (Jennings and Anthony grew up just outside of big cities), but they also were just fine with re-signing with a winner in a smaller city in 2006 (Anthony), 2007 (Howard) and 2008 (Paul). Jennings, more than likely, won't have a winner to re-sign with in 2014 when he could potentially become an unrestricted free agent.
Before then? The Bucks could trade him. The Bucks could decline to match an offer for him on the unrestricted free-agent market. The Bucks could refuse to offer him the Qualifying Offer of $4.3 million in the summer of 2013, making him an unrestricted free agent then. Or, the Bucks could get a lot better, enticing Jennings to stay.
That is to say, the Bucks are going to keep their options open. As well they should, because while Jennings has been great this year, he's a wildly inconsistent player overall and still has a lot of work to do to grow into a top-tier point guard.
And Jennings, speaking about something that could likely go down TWENTY-NINE MONTHS FROM NOW, is keeping his options open. And we wouldn't blame the guy, as much as we love visiting the city of Milwaukee, if he thinks that he could be the answer at point guard for the Knicks in a few years. Or back home in Los Angeles, teaming with Andrew Bynum and potentially Kobe Bryant. Again, we'd be checking his temperature if he considered otherwise.
Let's not kill the guy. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose re-signed with their teams in Oklahoma City and Chicago because their teams are really, really good. Do they love and appreciate the cities they play in? Sure, but it's a heck of a lot easier to love and appreciate things when you're taking four out of five games most weeks.
Jennings answered honestly and openly. Let's not disabuse him of that notion moving forward just to create a talking point in mid-February.