Brandon Jennings started his NBA career out with a bang with the Milwaukee Bucks, a poster child for skipping the college basketball route and going pro out of high school, in his case heading to Europe.
But, Jennings has maintained his dominance. By his third NBA season, Jennings averaged 19.1 points per game. Last year with the Pistons, he went back down to a tie for his career low at 15.5.
But this year, he's ready to improve and he's coming back with 25 extra pounds, according to the Detroit News, which says he's between 185-190 pounds now.
Jennings also seems to be fired up about new coach Stan Van Gundy, who he compared to former Bucks coach Scott Skiles.
“He’s really big on details and he said you’re gonna have to play defense and give your all, every night,” Jennings told the paper. “He already said it, I’m not expecting you to lock guys up one on one. Guys are just too good. But what we can do is give a good effort and play team defense.”
What will it mean?
The weight will make it a lot more difficult for opponents to push Jennings around when he's trying to defend and it will help him to finish on the offensive end and get out of his rut.
“I’m gonna be honest. It was my worst year,” Jennings told the paper. “Dealing with all types of things. The fractured jaw, losing weight, not being able to play preseason, missing games. Then getting into a rhythm, then Mo (Cheeks) was fired and I’m back down again. It was just the worst season ever, a roller coaster.”
There are still plenty of those skeptical it will make a difference.
“His footwork is still stuck in high school mode,” Kelly Dwyer wrote on Yahoo's “Ball Don't Lie” blog.
“He’s one of the NBA’s worst point guard finishers around the rim, but to these eyes that’s less about needed those 25 lbs. worth of bulk and more about the way his body is configured, the legs he’s jumping off of, and his touch and decision-making while amongst the trees in the paint. There are times when you watch the guy, and it’s not even when his terribly-spun jumpers are drawing iron, and you wonder how he even scores at all.”
Did he change the game?
There was plenty of discussion of whether Jennings, jumping to Europe out of high school and then having early NBA success, would start a trend of others doing that. While others have tried, Jennings is really the only U.S. player to find a ton of success going that route, while Jeremy Tyler was the opposite after his time as a pro player in Israel.
“It’s funny, when you go overseas it’s different because you’re not babied and pampered the way you are in college,” Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger told the Denver Post in 2009.
“You don’t have the assistant coach looking out for you all the time. You kind of have to grow up real fast when you play overseas. In another country you’re playing professional athletes. I think it probably helped him more than a year of college would have helped him. It’s more realistic, closer to this than what it is in college.”