Brandon Jennings is back - with the Bucks' G League team
Over the last decade, Brandon Jennings' basketball odyssey has taken him from Los Angeles to Virginia to Italy to Milwaukee to Detroit to Orlando to New York to Washington and, most recently, to China. And now it's taking the well-traveled veteran and former Bucks player to Oshkosh.
On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Herd acquired Jennings after he had signed a G League contract and gone through the waiver process. Unlike the NBA, in the G League players sign deals with the league, rather than a team; the Bucks-affiliated Herd was first in the waiver order and claimed Jennings, reuniting him – sort of – with its parent club that drafted him.
"We couldn't be more excited to welcome Brandon back to the Bucks organization and introduce him to the Herd family," said Herd General Manager and Bucks Vice President of Basketball Operations Dave Dean. "Brandon has played at the highest levels all over the world and we look forward to him calling Oshkosh home."
Bucks fans no doubt remember Jennings, who was Milwaukee's first-round pick in 2009 (No. 10 overall) and exploded onto the scene by scoring 55 points in his seventh NBA game. As a rookie, he helped lead the Bucks to the playoffs in their "Fear the Deer" year. Jennings's nearly four-season tenure with the Bucks was tumultuous, though, marked by promise, production, frustration and disappointment. After averaging a career-high 19.1 points per game in the 2011-12 season, Jennings and the team couldn't come to terms on a long-term contract extension, suggesting he didn't want to stay in Milwaukee, though he refuted such reports.
Following the failed Monta Ellis-Jennings backcourt experiment in 2013, Jennings was signed-and-traded after that season to the Pistons, in an exchange that brought Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton and Viacheslav Kravtsov to Milwaukee. Jennings averaged 15.5 points and a career-best 7.6 assists in 2013-14, but ruptured his Achilles' tendon midway through the subsequent season, ending his campaign.
Jennings hasn't been the same player since that injury. He appeared in just 129 games over the next two years, never averaging double figures in points after scoring at least 15 a game in his first six seasons. He was traded to the Magic in 2016, then spent time with the Knicks and Wizards in 2016-17. This season, he played in China on a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Shanxi Brave Dragons, averaging 27.9 points, 6.8 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 2.7 steals in 13 games.
After the Chinese Basketball Association season ended and his contract expired in December, Jennings said he wanted to return to the NBA, however way he could. Signing with the G League signals Jennings' sincerity in working to get back to the NBA, though his presence on the Herd's roster doesn't mean Bucks fans should automatically expect to see him in Milwaukee.
The G League deadline to sign two-way players passed on Jan. 15, and Jennings, 28, wouldn't have qualified for the designation anyway, given his eight years of NBA service. The Bucks cannot simply call up Jennings the way they can with Xavier Mumford and Marshall Plumlee; and, as they have a full roster, Milwaukee would have to cut a player in order to add Jennings, whether on a full or 10-day contract.
Jennings is a member of the Herd, and like all G League players, any NBA team – including the Bucks – can sign him at any time. But even despite Milwaukee's recent rash of backcourt injuries – point guards Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova are currently sidelined – it seems unlikely the Bucks would release someone to bring up Jennings.
Still, the news created some excitement for the struggling Herd, which has lost nine of its last 10 games after a hot start to its inaugural season, and some buzz on Twitter, where fans appear to have moved past the sour ending of Jennings' tenure in Milwaukee. And it's a good opportunity for Jennings to showcase his ability and try to prove he belongs in the NBA.
"I still think that I'm back to the person that I was before I got hurt, the person that I was in Detroit," Jennings said recently in an interview with HoopsHype. "At 28, being in China, it was different because I was by myself. So it was definitely different living on my own. But it also helped me grow up and mature and realize what was important in life for me."
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