Four years ago tonight, Brandon Jennings made his regular season debut for the Milwaukee Bucks in Philadelphia. It was an unheralded matchup between a Sixers team coming off a shellacking from the Orlando Magic and the woefully-projected Bucks. Jennings and Co. may have walked out of the Wachovia Center losers, but Jennings left an immediate mark on Milwaukee fans and the league as a whole. 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists in his first real game ever. The following night Jennings scored 24 points in Milwaukee's home-opening win against Detroit. He dropped 25 three nights later. The next week he had 32 points and 9 assists in a win versus the Nuggets before exploding for 55 points against the Golden State Warriors. This was the start of something special, we thought. This was the start of something sensational.
We'll probably never forget the first few weeks of that season, when Brandon Jennings established himself as a surefire superstar, the next Allen Iverson with the charisma to drag Milwaukee out of their mid-00's funk. Unfortunately, that was about as good as it ever got with Jennings (though it came close last March). He never failed to capture our attention (kidnap may be the better word), but it sadly proved a hollow pursuit. Jennings' four years in Milwaukee were ultimately a lot like the previous four: a lot of promising signs but little substance and even less progress.
Tonight's season opener marks the start of our search for the next sensation. Yes, the Bucks will be concerned with player rotations, play style, and (presumably) winning the game, but everyone is on the lookout for the next superstar-in-waiting. One game is all it takes to make an impression. But small sample sizes, you know? We haven't learned, and we don't want to.
These Bucks are formed of many more known quantities than past years. They'll be built around a tough defense anchored by de facto team leader Larry Sanders. Their shooting efficiency should be much improved, but shot creation and turnover issues could be persistent problems. Do we have them figured out? Are they doomed to follow the same script as last year only with a different cast of characters?
Tonight, that franchise-defining question might finally, mercifully, get pushed aside. Maybe it's still the most important issue in play, but it's definitely the most annoying. Flipping out when Brandon Knight dishes 13 assists and O.J. Mayo scores 27 points, proving that both guys are making perfectly-timed leaps, is a lot more fun. So is wondering if Giannis Antetokounmpo can become the first teenager to record a triple-double in NBA history after he puts up some 9/8/4 line. That's the stuff we're all starved for, the only thing that can make us forget mediocrity and Tobias Harris and arena taxes.
Nothing like Jennings' early run is ever likely to happen, which is part of what makes it so fun. A few preseason games got us all excited about stuff like Giannis' ability to contribute this season and Khris Middleton's potential as a useful rotation player. Now that things count for real, everything gets amplified, including on our end. One game is all it takes to erase bad memories. Legends are born overnight. Then we hold on to them as long as we can until it all inevitably falls apart or we achieve eternal glory.
I'm ready. We're all ready. Let's do it.