Brandon Jennings played for the Bucks tonight, and it was extremely fun
A very strange and fun thing happened on the internet tonight. Well, technically, it happened on a basketball court in Memphis, but the more interesting, related thing happened online.
After only just being called up from the G League and signed to a 10-day contract on Sunday, Brandon Jennings – an enormously talented but equally frustrating point guard on mediocre Milwaukee teams from the pre-Giannis, Herb Kohl-owned era that feels a lot longer ago than it was; a player who was simultaneously exciting and aggravating to cheer for before being traded away in 2013 and then embarking on a seven-team odyssey that had him toiling in China as recently as three months ago – played really well in his NBA season debut against the Grizzlies and Bucks Twitter fell head over heels in love with him, unconditionally enamored and unable to post breathless tweets about the new old baller fast enough.
Jennings, appearing in his first NBA game since April 12, 2017, came out penetrating, passing, pulling up for his trademark lefty 3-pointers and utterly enrapturing Bucks fans watching on TV. He nearly had a triple-double by halftime – 11 points, nine assists and six rebounds in 14 frisky, energetic and joyful minutes. In the second half, as the woeful Grizzlies (or, more accurately, their freshman team) kept it kind of close, Jennings kept dropping dimes, finishing with 12 assists by the end of his night, to go with 16 points and eight rebounds.
One of the quickest players in the league before a ruptured Achilles tendon in 2015 seemingly sapped some of his speed, Jennings looked as light on his feet as ever – dribbling, driving and dishing with a wispy, airy confidence, scooping in layups, slipping through pocket passes and shooting fadeaway jumpers with his familiar flare. On defense, he got beat off the dribble a couple of times and looked a little slow to react off the ball, but he ran the offense competently and didn't force plays too much (well, for him). Jennings gave the Bucks a spark off the bench in the backcourt, where they haven't had a real No. 2 point guard in a month, due to injuries to Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova.
After the game, Jennings said during a Fox Sports Wisconsin TV interview that he felt "blessed" to have the opportunity to play again.
"I'm finally healthy from the Achilles injury, and just to be back here on this NBA floor is a blessing," he said. "To be in a Bucks uniform, it feels like I first got drafted.
"All the hard work in the summer, even when I was in China, man, just working out, working on my game with no distractions, it's showing. So I just gotta keep it going. Good win tonight."
Head coach Joe Prunty joked afterward that "we wanted more" from Jennings, who was brought up from the Wisconsin Herd a day earlier to much nostalgic (and slightly snarky) fanfare.
"No, he was very good tonight," Prunty said. "Obviously, the 12 assists were great – we had 33 as a team – I liked the ball movement, liked the way that, as a group, we shared it and pushed the ball. But overall, really positive night for him, he did a lot of things that were really good."
Prunty pointed to the "value of the G League," in terms of its structure and the similar styles of the Herd and Bucks in easing his transition, but, he added, Jennings "is also an extremely talented player. He had a nice day of practice yesterday, and it paid off today."
At halftime, assistant coach Stacy Augmon talked about how Jennings had "made an impact in practice" and he noted that, with the 28-year-old in the game, the Bucks shared the ball better than they usually do. Jennings clearly jived with his new teammates, especially on the second unit.
"I only had one practice," he said. "So in practice, I just told guys, 'Listen, we want to get as many possessions as we can, we want to shoot a lot of 3s, and I just want to make the game easier for everybody.' We've still got a lot of work to do, but I only had one practice and one game, so we just gotta keep it going."
Meanwhile, as Jennings performed better than anyone could have expected on the court, Bucks fans – some Jennings lovers, some former (perhaps recovering?) Jennings haters, some probably not old or avid enough to have watched much of Jennings in his last Milwaukee go-round, from 2009-13 – went gleefully nuts on Twitter. People posted pictures of their not-yet-thrown-away No. 3 jerseys.
People joked that he'd average a triple-double the rest of the season and lead the Bucks to a championship. People joked many, many other things. Generally – and not characteristically for Twitter, nor especially Bucks Twitter – people were happy to be watching Jennings and, for one night at least, in agreement that the previously polarizing point guard was playing well.
It was cool, one of those collective experiences that can make watching sports together and talking about it on social media so great. Perhaps the game will ultimately be an outlier for Jennings, or perhaps he becomes the kind of late-season jolt the Bucks need to make a playoff push. For one night, at least, it just felt really fun to see him play again.
Here's some of the best of what fans had to say on Twitter about Jennings' season debut/Bucks return:
Watching Brandon Jennings with Giannis and Jabari is insane. I love it. Getting close to what might be the dumbest thing I ever cry about.— Bart Winkler (@WinksThinks) March 13, 2018
The year is 2917.— Nihilist Bucks (@nihilist_bucks) March 13, 2018
The Bucks have signed Brandon Jennings, of the Z-League Oconomowoc Otters.
"Well he's bad now, BUT remember when-"
WE HAVE OFFICIALLY ENTERED THE BRANDON JENNINGS ERA pic.twitter.com/hAJjEPv9cG— Brew Hoop (@brewhoop) March 13, 2018
Brandon Jennings is on the brink of a triple double for the Bucks. pic.twitter.com/EvFmmrdi5v— Samantha Kuffel (@skuffel_waow) March 13, 2018
Brandon Jennings feeding John Henson and somewhere, Scott Skiles is heated.— Jordan Treske (@JordanTreske) March 13, 2018
Like, I can't even imagine watching Brandon Jennings approach a tripdub in a half his first game back for the Bucks and then immediately start crying about how it won't last. Why the fuck do you even watch sports, you clearly hate it.— InfiniteGrover (@_InfiniteGrover) March 13, 2018
hahaha i'm watching brandon jennings play for the bucks again, i can't stop laughing— Brett Abramczyk (@BrettAbramczyk) March 13, 2018
When the Bucks retire Brandon Jennings number do they retire #3 or #11?— Brenden (@TweetsByBrenden) March 13, 2018
Sign Brandon Jennings for the remainder of the season. When Brogdon comes back, burry Tony Snell on the bench.— Lamont (@LSFnJ) March 13, 2018
Second half wardrobe change pic.twitter.com/I4a5mhY8lb— Eric Buenning (@ericbuenning) March 13, 2018
i keep typing up my usual tweets for stuff brandon jennings is doing but i just can't bring myself to it. dude looks like he wants to do things right— Mitch Vomhof (@mitchvomhof) March 13, 2018
If Tyler Zeller and John Henson don't start blocking out guys so Jennings can get his debut triple-double, Adams-Westbrook-style, then what is this season even about?— Jimmy Carlton (@jimmycarlton88) March 13, 2018
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