Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE
Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings is on the fringe of the Eastern Conference All-Star roster, but he has a big opportunity to shine on Tuesday night when Jrue Holiday and the Philadelphia 76ers come to town. Here's our pep talk for Jennings.
Brandon Jennings, your table is not ready. In fact, your seat at the NBA Eastern Conference All-Star table is currently occupied. Kyrie Irving, Rajon Rondo and Deron Williams have all been racking up votes - and you've noted their presence on the leaderboard for guards - but none of those guys are sitting in your spot. They've each earned personalized spots at the awards shows, and now their reputations precede them.
No, the guy who has stolen your spotlight is someone else. He's the point guard prospect who was drafted seven spots after you in the 2009 NBA Draft. He's the lead guard that Zach Lowe of Grantland lists as an All-Star starter (ahead of Irving and Rondo) on his idealized all-star rosters. He's the reason you don't even sniff Lowe's list. Oh, and he will line up across from you on Tuesday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. If you haven't figured it out yet, the man who's taken your spot is Philadelphia 76ers point guard Jrue Holiday.
You genuinely care about all-star honors. I'm cool with that, and I don't begrudge you for wanting to join the club. It hurt you to lose out on NBA Rookie of the Year honors. It hurt you to miss the all-star cut last season. You don't want to be an all-star to help you in contract negotiations this summer. That would only be an incidental benefit. You want to be an all-star because you truly believe you belong on that list. I can dig that. You can't thrive in the NBA without supreme confidence in your abilities. I want you to dream big.
Here's the thing: the excuses people tell you aren't true. You're keeping track of what they say, too, so I suspect you know they aren't true. If you don't make it, they'll tell you it's about your youth, or league politics or something else beyond your control. They'll tell you to keep your head up and push forward. Maybe next year.
Screw that, man. Go get that all-star bid right damn now. Youth? Jrue Holiday is younger that you. Winning? Your Bucks have a better record than the 76ers. Politics? Somebody will throw you a bone and mention you on a ‘snublist,' but most of the roster projections won't include you. You can blame the Milwaukee market if you want. Nobody will say anything about that line of reasoning. It's a safe way to shift the focus. The truth is that most people don't think you've arrived. Or maybe they just can't see you behind the electrifying lead guard for the Sixers.
Jrue Holiday has arrived. His team hasn't been successful, but he's the reason they've succeeded at all. When the year started, everyone talked about Andrew Bynum as Philadelphia's best player. While Bynum has watched from the bench and rehabilitated his knee, Holiday has seized his opportunity to become the genuine heart and soul of the franchise. He's doing it all.
You've had a fine year, Brandon. It's worth talking about, but Holiday is stealing your spotlight. He's averaging more points and assists than you. He's shooting a higher percentage from the field and beyond the arc. His True Shooting percentage his better. His PER is better. He's just playing better basketball than you. He's becoming a better point guard that you. Consider this: you've dished out 10+ assists in 16 games over your 250-game NBA career. Holiday has recorded 10+ assists 12 times this season.
But enough about Holiday. This should be about you. These are the games people mark on the schedule. This is another chance for you to step forward and make people forget about guys like Jrue Holiday and shift the focus on to you with a stellar performance. Make sure people can't ignore what you've done this season. Burn a positive impression into their minds.
Jrue Holiday has taken control of his own all-star fate. Now it's your turn. It's right there for the taking. Remember when you (33 pts, 8 ast, 5 reb, 4 stl) clearly outplayed him (25 pts, 8 to, 6 ast) on Nov. 12 in a 105-96 win? Now go ahead and assert your dominance over Jrue and the hapless Sixers on your home floor. Don't be shy. It's your time to shine. I'm excited to see what happens.
Plenty of NBA fans and analysts still harbor reservations about your game, and that's part of what's standing in the way of your dream reservation at the all-star table. Brandon Jennings, your table is not ready...yet.