Failure in Philly ignites a benched Brandon Jennings

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Grades? Grades were no problem on Wednesday night. The Milwaukee Bucks made the grading process I go through incredibly easy.

That was about the only thing the Bucks were successful at on Wednesday. Fs all around! The defense of Milwaukee’s guards? Absent. Help from Bucks bigs? Non-existent. Shooting? Stayed in Milwaukee. Energy? Spent searching for the best cheesesteaks in Philly I presume.

The Bucks have been turning out lackluster defensive efforts for the better part of two months now, but Milwaukee has often found itself in the win column, simply because offensively, the Bucks have been working with quite a bit of firepower. But when Brandon Jennings plays so poorly on both ends that his coach can’t even go to him in the fourth quarter and J.J. Redick makes fewer than 25% of his shots, suddenly the defensive problems the Bucks have had look quite a bit worse.

Jennings struggles early on both ends of the court, were apparently severe enough for Coach Jim Boylan to go in another direction, opting for Monta Ellis at the point guard spot along side Redick and Mike Dunleavy on the wings in the fourth quarter as the Bucks attempted to rally. Jennings, predictably, was not thrilled according to Charles Gardner:

“This is the third time I’ve been benched in the second half and it hasn’t been under (former coach Scott) Skiles,” Jennings said after the game. “You always want to be out there to help your team.

“I don’t see any all-stars in this locker room so I think everybody should be held accountable, like anybody else. There’s no maxed-out players in this locker room; there’s no all-stars. So don’t try to put me on a pedestal and just give everybody else the freedom to do whatever they want.”

Jennings said he feels he is being singled out.

At the conclusion of that excerpt, the world of Bucks fans has likely divided into two halves. One half feels Jennings has a point. He HAS been benched a number of times, for reasons that are less clear to the masses. Sure, his shooting has suffered and his defense has been sketchy in those games, but there have been plenty of games where Jennings was inaccurate and equally as bad defensively in which he played 40 minutes. I’m thinking it may be generous to place an entire half of people in this camp. More like a quarter.

The other segment feels Jennings is complaining unjustly once again. This group feels like he’s placing blame elsewhere and not taking it upon himself to get better defensively and keep himself in games.

As always, neither side is “right” per say. There’s validity in both arguments. It is weird that Jennings seems to take the brunt of the wrath of Boylan. Monta Ellis is equally as poor a defender as Jennings and he was no better last night. In pick and roll situations, both of them have a habit of falling behind, struggling to get back after the big helps  and then trailing the play, guarding neither the ball-handler or the roll man, leaving someone wide open. Both of them ball watch and lose their man defensively too. Why does Jennings get punished while Monta skates by?

Offensive productivity is probably the answer, at least of late. Jennings has had more bad shooting games than Ellis over the second half. Therefore, he’s seen more minutes on the bench. But that’s no way to teach accountability. If players feel different guys have different sets of rules, but don’t have different levels of talent, that’s when things start to get a bit messy. Notice how Jennings said he “didn’t see any all-stars in this locker room.” That’s an important signifier in the league. A player will likely allow preferential treatment if they feel a guy has earned it. I’m sure it would wound Jennings if he felt other guys were getting better treatment than him in Milwaukee  where he has some years and some success that others don’t.

But I digress. Let’s take this back to accountability, which I mentioned a moment ago. That’s where the Bucks seem to be having some issues lately, specifically with regards to effort and defense. The one thing a coach can control over everything else is minutes. And one thing that will hold players accountable seems to be playing time. Notice how the Bucks, for all their faults under Scott Skiles, rarely had any issues defensively? Those Bucks, especially the Bucks from earlier this season, were running the same pick and roll defensive schemes that the Bucks are running under Jim Boylan right now, yet they had more success. Why?

Scott Skiles would pull the plug on anyone, at any moment. It surely created some tense moments for him and we know he didn’t always handle communication very well, but he would play the guys that he felt were most capable and willing defensively. It’s not enough to just trot Marquis Daniels or Luc Mbah a Moute out there for 15 minutes a night, there has to be a real threat of waning playing time to anyone who isn’t committed on defense.

The Jennings’ and Ellis’ of the world will respond to losing minutes for a lack of effort defensively. It seems like the only thing they will respond to. I think Jim Boylan knows this. That’s why we’ve seen these sporadic sittings of Jennings. But he has to be prepared to take it to the next level and be willing to sit Ellis for his many defensive miscues. If he doesn’t, he could be facing an increasingly divided locker room.

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  1. Wah. I want a max deal. Wah. I don’t want to play defense. Wah. Scoring is easy. Wah. Everyone expects me to be good. Wah.

    Get this fucking clown off the Bucks. You got benched because you are playing like crap. Take the hint, if you want to piss and moan about being a star player, maybe you should play like one.

    -25 in 17 minutes, that is why you got benched. Jennings makes me long for the days of Royal Ivey and Earl Boykins.

    • Brandon Jennings has far and away the worst over/under of any player on the Bucks, sitting well under -200. And he wants a max deal? By the books, he’s not even worth half of that. Let him go at season’s end. The core of Ilyasova / Udoh / Sanders / Redick / Henson is still relatively young and includes players that are much more unselfish, which will make it easier to build a team around.

      Ellis (what I understand) doesn’t want max cash, want to be treated like a hollywood star, or think he’s above his team. He’s more of a family man, which doesn’t help the team a ton but also doesn’t hurt it either- this could also explain his off-nights, likely to rest up and save energy for playing with his kids.

      They do not deserve the same treatment, as the gap between where they are and where they think they are is much, much larger for Jennings.

  2. Skiles would have different lineups but they wouldn’t always have a rhyme or reason. Instead of deciding who is worse and pulling them, we should be putting in a whole new team. We’ve got a deep and talented bench that if they aren’t performing we can put a new group of guys. Let’s find out how Ish Smith, Ayon, Henson, or any of the other bench guys can do when they need to perform. They might actually be as good as the others and the starters will, hopefully, get the hint that they need to step up or they won’t be playing. Also, more bench time would keep the players fresher.

  3. I like jennings, but hes not a leader if he was a leader he would take it like a man, suck it up, and put in some effort when he plays, he wouldnt be takin jumpers allday especially when their not hittin, and why would he anyways when he has the ability to take anyone to the hole, i think he jus needs to learn how to play to his abilities. Jennings were pullin for ya but ur immature cocky outbusts we can do without. GO BUCKS

  4. I do not agree with your conclusion, Jeremy, that the Bucks need to bench Ellis as well. Ellis has been an overall positive since the Reddick trade, with March numbers of 49.6% FG, 38.1% 3fg, 79% FT, 23.9p/3.7r/5.9a/1.7s and 3.3 TO in 39.6 mpg. I understand he’s not a plus-defender, but why would the Bucks bench their best and most-dynamic offensive playmaker… at all, let alone ALONG with Jennings? You want them to play Ish, Reddick, Dunleavy and Daniels?

    It seems to me that Jennings is being benched not simply because he’s terrible (and not trying) at defense; his entire attitude has bottomed out. Nine times in 17 games he’s put up fewer than 13 shots; he had only eight such games during the first 53 games of the season. He’s shooting 36.5% since the Reddick trade, and only 35% on 2-pt FGs. And yet, overall, he’s still averaging 38.1 mpg in March, which is higher(!) than his overall average for the season, 37.2 mpg. Perhaps Boylan has just realized that his team’s chances of winning are better with Jennings’ terrible O and D on the bench, when it comes to crunch time.

    To get back to Ellis though, would you disagree with me? Do you think that even with his stellar numbers on offense, he’s still a net-negative on the floor?

  5. Jennings was treated like an all-star player his first 4 years here, maybe that’s the problem with this team, it is one of the few things to remain constant these past 4 years.

    As far as Jennings’ comments, the team has suspended Dalembert for less, so according to Jennings’ logic about preferential treatment, he shouldn’t play tonight.

  6. Well, if the locker room is anything like the blogs these days, it’s no wonder this team can’t seem to find any chemistry.

    Not ready to jump on the “it’s all Jennings fault” bandwagon. Still think there is plenty of blame to go around. Group hug? They better do it soon.

    • I know its not all Brandon’s fault. But I think his attitude and comments are really the reason there is so much negativity directed at him. First, there was the whole “I want a max deal thing” then it was “scoring is easy”, there is a huge disparity between how he views himself and what he actually is.

      Monta Ellis has said that he took time to examine his game, figure out why his performance was down so much and has adjusted. We have never seen anything like that ever come out of Brandon. The best we get is he recognized he is taking bad shots, so he stops shooting all together.

      They (the guards) all stink at playing defense, but lately Jennings is so bad on that end and not contributing nearly enough on offense to overlook it anymore. If the Bucks were a good team, with the way he has been playing lately, he would be so far down the bench he would have to pay for a courtside seat.

  7. I officially prefer Ellis over Jennings at this point. After thinking about it for awhile, there are a lot of similarities between Ellis and Brett Favre. Both are kids from Mississippi that genuinely enjoy the game they play. Both have tremendous ability, but don’t always make the greatest decisions. Both give you a chance to win every game. Both text pictures of their privates to unsuspecting victims.

    Since we all know the Bucks will not blow it up. I would be okay with a lineup looking like:

    Turkish Thunder
    Leapin’ Larry Sanders

    I’d like to see Dunleavy back for another 2 years or so

  8. I agree with everything in this article, except the line: “Scott Skiles would pull the plug on anyone, at any moment.” Anyone BUT Jennings, as Jennings points out in the quote. I feel like the Skiles-era instilled this entitlement in Jennings that he would have his 35+ minutes every night, regardless of defensive effort, right from the start of his rookie year. Whether that was actually Skiles’ decision or orders from up high, we’ll never know, but clearly Jennings has never been held to the same rules as everyone else until now, and he hates it.

  9. I agree with the grade. This was one of the worst efforts AND performances I’ve seen this season. The Jennings question is difficult, and when the off-season comes there will be a lot to talk about and tough decisions to be made, but he’s on the team now. If they want to even have a chance against the Heat, they’re going to have to get their shit together. If this is pissing Brandon off, I only hope he tries to prove something tonight if Boylan lets him play. They both need to work this out and come to an agreement. There’s really not much else to say.

    I really liked it when they had both Sanders and Dalembert on the court. Think if those two and Luc are both on the court. This should be tried at least in a rotation. All three of them can defend, and all three of them can score in the paint as well as hit jumpshots. What is there to lose from trying? I say still start Ilyasova, but with two guards that can hit the jumpers and assist, they’ll be a lot harder to defeat.

  10. F is the perfect grade for the team. The Jennings comment is overrated, stick a mic in a starters face and ask him “Oh well did you enjoy being benched tonight?” “Well yes moronic reporter, I loved it.” Let’s do a quick team run down.
    Jim Boylan- awful, Scott Skiles couldn’t write up an offensive play for a high school team and he’s a better coach than Boylan.
    Jennings- pretty good when he cares to play, awful when he doesn’t
    Ellis- shooting hot or cold he is the turnover king
    Starting Small Forward- Do we even have one?
    Ilyasova- Can’t guard any power forwards under 150 pounds.
    Sanders- thinks he is a jump shooter
    Dunleavy- his defensive rotations are awful, terrible, bad, embarrassing
    Mbah a Moute- average defender who can’t do anything else
    Daniels- see above

    How Gustavo Ayon doesn’t see PT is incredible, can run, rebound, defend, play under the hoop, obvious to any Bucks fan.

    Bye Jim Boylan, Bye Monta, Bye BJ3, Bye Dunleavy, Bye Redick!!!!

    I rather be 10-72 instead of being the perfect definition of the word mediocre year in and year out. Be awful and tank or sign an All-Star. It really sucks being a Bucks fan.

    • I’m so glad someone else sees things the way I do. I seemed to be the only person who was upset about the Reddick trade. It didn’t help us, we were the 8th seed who wasn’t going to make it out of the first round without him, we’re an 8th seed who isn’t going to make it out of the first round with him. Tobias Harris may or may not wind up being an all-star someday, but for fucks sake, you don’t trade a talented young player for a rental who doesn’t give you a chance of competing for a title. I wanted us to scrap the mediocre team we have and build a contender around Harris/SANDERS!, but I knew it wasn’t going to happen. Instead, I’m just glad we didn’t give up a draft pick along with Harris in the trade (something I could definitely see the Bucks doing).

    • I’m dumb, I meant over 150 pounds for Ilyasova. Any PF has his way with him, it’s embarrassing. Probably still has nightmares of playing the Jazz.

    • I will never support tanking on purpose, ever. That’s like being the poster person for people who are against welfare. Lazy, unemployed, and leeching off of the government. I wouldn’t care if they drafted the next LeBron, Durant, and Kobe by tanking. My respect for you has already flown out the window.

  11. It’s so hard to know what is going on with the Bucks
    behind the scenes, but I would like to put in a good
    word for Brandon. I have a rooting investment in the
    guy over almost four seasons, and I don’t think we
    should be too quick to give up on him or too harsh
    in putting him down — although he does seem to deserve
    much of the criticism directed at him.

    What I will say in favor of Brandon is that I think
    he’s put in some good effort for the Bucks over the
    years for a team that has generally been mediocre and
    uninspiring. I’m not that confident that he has been
    handled that well since he came to the team at about
    age 19. He’s only about 23 right now, and I’m not
    ready to give up on him yet.

    I know that he gets paid well and that it’s a tough
    world and a competitive league, but I do think you
    have to nurture these young players to a large degree
    with both discipline and encouragement. That’s a tall
    order for a coach, but then again, coaches get paid
    well, too, and more should be expected of them than
    just drawing up plays.

    When Vince Lombardi came to the Packers, Bart Starr
    and Paul Hornung and Ray Nitschke were not only failures,
    they were disasters. Now coach Lombardi didn’t coddle
    his guys, didn’t pander to them, but he did have a way
    of bonding with them by treating them more as people
    than just players.

    The players could take all of his yelling and pushing
    and almost-intolerably-high demands because they knew
    that he had a certain kind of respect and fondness for
    them that was a genuine form of love. If they would
    dedicate themselves to the Packers, he would dedicate
    himself to them. I wasn’t there, and wasn’t even born
    until 1962, but I’ve long been a huge fan and
    enthusiastic student of that legendary team.

    It was a team par excellence, perhaps the greatest example
    in the history of sports of how far a group of guys can go
    when they learn to work together with sacrifice,
    dedication and even friendship. (See “That First Season”
    by John Eisenberg. Also recently finished a very good
    biography on Bart Starr by Keith Dunnavant.)

    Anyway, how us old-timers ramble and reminisce. I’ll
    try to finish quickly with the thought that players aren’t
    just interchangeable parts based on fantasy-team statistics.
    I would think that most of us know the difference it
    can make when a parent or teacher or coach really believes
    in us — or even to long to have that kind of person in our

    I have my serious concerns about Brandon, and would not
    baby him, but I’m not giving up on him, either. I’m rooting
    for him, and I hope someone within Bucks management
    is rooting for him, too.

  12. while I have been very critical of Boylan’s rotations, and yes, they are terrible and inconsistent.. what is he supposed to do? what was Brandon giving us? not much in the way of energy or efficiency.. but neither was JJ.. Brando seems to think the 2nd half of basketball games are the only half of basketball games

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  14. happyfeethustle

    Im not willing to jump all over Brandon either- i’ve really enjoyed his time here in Milwaukee. He helped to bring some excitement to a team that needed it awfully bad! His 1st season , he was serviceable enough to get Bucks to game 7 vs.Atlanta- but not alot cheer about this team since. It seems that his time here is coming to an abrupt end!

    I honestly have ZERO issue with the benching against Philly-obviously Coach saw something too great to just overlook. I wish Boylan would grow a set already…these guys seem to just do as they please. Truth seems to be: Players are fine with quick exit in round 1 against HEAT and Boylan will not be captain of this ship next season-no need to worry about the doghouse.

    Expect some major roster changes in off season- TRUST John Hammond to improve OUR team.

    On the flip-side, its 3 am Fri. morn, and the Bucks have put together anice 48 min. effort to beat the Lakers. Stay POSITIVE

    Go BUCKS Go