MILWAUKEE – On the way out of Bradley Center for potentially one last time with the Milwaukee Bucks, on the way out to Los Angeles for the offseason, Brandon Jennings talked about his grand strategy, a perfect free agent path. He called this a season of fluctuating emotion, engraved with his lack of a contract extension last October and punctuated by a putrid shooting display in the Bucks’ first round sweep to the Miami Heat.
Jennings will now head back to the west coast not only to train, but also meet with his new agent, Jeff Schwartz, and reinforce a plan for his restricted free agency. Ultimately, the Bucks have the leverage to withstand the power play that awaits them, with the ability to keep Jennings through an extension or should he sign the qualifying offer.
Jennings was adamant on Sunday afternoon, promising his agent will take care of him this offseason. At every turn, he declared he didn’t know whether he wanted to be back. Even so, Jennings stopped on his way to the Bradley Center parking lot and admitted openness to staying with the Bucks.
“Yeah, of course I’d be cool coming back here,” Jennings told RealGM. “I started here. So that’s always a possibility.”
In a season that began with a game-winner by Jennings at home, he lacked assertiveness and had just three points, one made shot in seven attempts and one assist in 23 minutes in the Heat’s 88-77 Game 4 win. For the series, Jennings averaged 13.2 points and missed 40 of 57 attempts from the field, his shot and body language falling flat. There were extended slumps and benchings, frustration and confusion all season, and through it all Jennings hadn’t let go of the fact the Bucks didn’t give him the extension that top point guards in his draft class received.
The Bucks still appear poised to match any offer sheet that Jennings receives, and he told RealGM that a decision about possibly signing a one-year tender has yet to be made and will be done with Schwartz. Yes, Jennings and Schwartz are forging a power play, forging a market for the 23-year-old to get a lucrative long-term deal.
“My agent’s going to take care of everything,” Jennings said. “I don’t have no mindset. It’s up to my agent and everybody will find out July 1.”
As currently constructed, the Bucks aren’t strong enough to contend in the Eastern Conference and not weak enough to chase a high draft pick. Monta Ellis said Sunday he’ll mull over his $11 million player option for next season in the coming weeks before coming to a decision. Among the veteran free agents, Drew Gooden isn’t sure whether he’ll return, as an amnesty candidate, and Marquis Daniels told RealGM he feels healthy and will allow his agent to identify interested teams in the offseason.
In the end, it all revolves around Jennings, and he’s already made clear he wants to win and the Bucks would be inclined to add veterans and try to pile up picks for next year’s draft. His confidence in winning the first round series was always admirable; what else is a player supposed to say? Clearly, the Heat didn’t need the motivation to win, nor did LeBron James and Dwyane Wade use it.
Near the end of the regular season, Jennings had proposed an idea to his foundation: Building more basketball courts in Compton, his hometown. Yet, he’s gone from committed to the plan to unsure now. Just as he says his free agency decision is up to his agent, implementing the idea to build his own courts is hinging on others, too. “It might happen, it might not,” Jennings said. “I still got to check.”
Jennings will be back in Los Angeles soon either way, training and finalizing a strategy into restricted free agency. He had to get some joy telling everyone to wait for his decision on July 1, but Brandon Jennings alluded to a truth: The Bucks are still viable for him, where it all started.