So it is confirmed: Brandon Jennings and John Wall play like smart cars with Nitrous. Not only do they boast world-supreme quickness, they also possess great basketball instincts and vision, always moving the offense forward.
The point gods played the entire first quarter, a delightful opening 12 minutes despite shooting a combined 2-10 from the field (Jennings 0-4, Wall 2-6).
Neither player was able to consistently stay in front of the other, which shouldn't surprise since no human can consistently stay in front of either one. Young Buck drew a foul on Wall going to the hoop just a couple minutes in, and Jennings maintained the aggression and shot 6-6 from the line in the opening quarter. He also picked Wall's pocket once and dished out four assists. Meanwhile, Wall matched those four assists, finished an and-one against Jennings on a break (Brandon still not doing the hard-foul thing) and had a steal-and-dunk.
And that was just the first period.
I've had the good fortune of watching and writing about Jennings first face Derrick Rose and now Wall in the preseason, guys who represent the first Eastern Conference point guards selected in the past three drafts (Wall first in 2010, Jennings tenth in 2009, Rose first in 2008).
They all declared for the NBA as fast as they could one year out of high school, and they are all still younger than me. I'm a point guard guy, and they make for a real aesthetic out there. But they are also all still completing coursework in Jumpshooting 201 (or repeating 101). Wall and particularly Rose have the advantage of being better built to score close to the basket, but whichever one masters the jumper first might just finish top of the 2010s point guard class in the end.
Fun first matchup, even if by my count Jennings (0-3) and Wall (1-7) combined to shoot 1-10 outside of the paint.
Also: 20 other players played, so...
In and out of the Arenas. I was curious to see the Artist Formerly Known as Agent Zero after all this time, so it was a touch disappointing that he exited for good with a mild right groin strain in the first quarter. Also wanted a longer look at Washington's idea to use an obscene number (three) of point guards on the floor at once. Maybe Gil just wanted to give Lester Hudson a chance to impress?
Injury-free. Okay, so the Bucks are in fact dealing with all sorts of injuries. But the timing of it all might just be a blessing in disguise. A successful preseason is a preseason in which no one gets seriously hurt (knock on hardwood). And with Bogut, Maggette, Salmons, etc. already hurt, they aren't being risked further in meaningless games. These guys are getting in better health, not the other way around (regardless of what NBA.com might tell you). I'm serious about this.
It's tempting to want it all, and want it all right now. But a month or two into the season will lend perspective (as it always does) not only on how meaningless the preseason was, but also how a handful of regular season games is just that: a handful of regular season games. I won't yet argue that the regular season is meaningless -- not after just one playoff appearance -- but the Bucks have a couple months to get in sync for what really matters, and I expect that they will use all of that time to do so.
Time for Larry. I selfishly would have liked to see even more than 21 minutes of Larry Sanders, though I didn't see a lot from him when I did see him, if you see what I'm saying. He started off nicely with a straight jumper and found enough time for another block, but he was also blocked a couple times, picked up a technical for no discernable reason (thanks referee), and generally looked like a rookie in preseason. Oh.
Free throws. So it's the preseason, and it's small sample sizes, and it's not the real lineup. But after last year's historic free throw ineptitude, I can't help but smiling at 37-43 (.860). And though you might notice this is the first time I mentioned who won the game, for a reason, the Bucks pretty much won this game at the line. Ilyasova in particular is lighting up the line, 3-3 tonight and undefeated at 20-20 in the preseason.
Yi still Yi. There was a time (in my idealist youthful state-of-mind perhaps) when I thought Yi could be an impact player in the NBA. That time is not now. He's okay, maybe, but still shows all the familiar signs of being no more than a rotation player on a mediocre team. In sum, not the type of player you miss. Now that I think of it that way, not sure I miss any former Bucks playing these days (though I certainly still like Ramon Sessions), which can only be a good sign.
Andray Blatche still defines mercurial, and Nick Young might just turn out to be something. Might.
Andrew and Drew. Brian Skinner is approximately awful, but it's heartening to have Drew Gooden, who is developing some chemistry with Jennings (ah, so preseason is good for something). Granted, I don't think Gooden does any of the little things the same way Kurt Thomas did, but good ole Kurt (and I mean that sincerely and affectionately) maxed out at 12 points last season and Gooden dropped 19 points on Washington's respective heads in the first half. Preseason or not, he's a capable scorer, and that whole scoring thing wasn't area of strength last year, to put it indirectly and lightly.