Brandon Jennings is back, though he might not yet be back.
Playing his first game since mid-December, Jennings came off the bench for the first time in his career, missing all three of his shots while adding a pair of free throws in 11 minutes of the Bucks' 91-81 win over the Nets. Jennings' limited cameo was expected, as Scott Skiles stated before the game that he would be on a 12 minute restriction in his first action since surgery to repair a broken bone in his foot.
Jennings entered to a standing ovation with less than five minutes remaining in the first quarter, and missed his first shot a couple minutes later. Using a high screen from Bogut, Jennings darted to the left side of the lane against Brook Lopez, cradling the ball as his high banker over Lopez's challenge caromed off the rim. He was also wide on a long three from the right wing early in the second, but picked up his only assist of the night when he flipped the ball to an unmarked Carlos Delfino for a three moments later. Jennings made his second appearance late in the third, missing another three and scoring his only points after getting flattened in the lane by Johan Petro.
Given the circumstances, Jennings kept things in perspective after the game:
"It was all right," Jennings said. "It felt good to just be back with the guys.
"I knew I wasn't going to play as much. I was just trying to get back in the flow and get a little bit of rhythm back."
All told it was a fairly anonymous night in basketball terms, as Keyon Dooling (14 pts/nine assists) and the Bucks managed just fine without Jennings, whose return also meant a DNP-CD for Earl Boykins. How Skiles manages his PGs from here on out will be an interesting subplot, as Dooling has proven a steady distributor and defender in Jennings' absence. Meanwhile, Boykins has been up-and-down but played a crucial role in victories over the Lakers, Kings, Mavericks, and Hawks. The Bucks have now managed a respectable 9-11 mark with Dooling starting in Jennings' absence, with the 30-year-old Dooling posting 10.0 ppg, 5.6 apg, and just 1.4 to on .409/.364 shooting in that span.
Those aren't stellar numbers, but along with his solid defense they've gotten the job done, as suggested by Dooling's team-best marks in on-court/off-court differential and adjusted plus/minus. Still, for the Bucks to really make any noise they'll need Jennings healthy and playing at his best--sooner rather than later. Even if Jennings comes off the bench once more on Monday in L.A., don't expect his supporting role to last long.