Homecoming. This one has been circled for a while. Brandon Jennings will play his first NBA game in the Bradley Center as a member of the visiting team tonight and it's tough to guess what kind of welcome he'll get. Soon after being drafted 10th overall back in 2009, Jennings was already being hailed as Milwaukee's Golden Boy, the future star who brought with him a swagger Milwaukee hadn't seen since the early 2000s. He electrified Bucks fans and the NBA as a whole with stunning performances in the first weeks of his career. But boy, did it go downhill from there. Jennings' own limitations caught up with him and his performance stagnated, leading to frustration across the board. That frustration manifested in a manner that irked a lot of people--the infamous free-agency sound bites, the post-All-Star malaise, the outrageous contract demands--and eventually made a departure feel inevitable. There was quite a bit of venom directed toward Jennings by the time he was traded to Detroit, and it's still early enough to think those sore feelings linger on. I don't think it's fair to suggest Jennings "quit" on the Bucks and greet him like a traitor, but I also can't blame people for associating him with a few disappointing seasons and reacting accordingly.
Who knows if Jennings is happier in his new situation. He's got a long term contract, something that's always seemed important to him. He's got a lot more star power to share the court with, which tends to help anyone. He's leading the Pistons in shots per game despite his own forgetfulness, but he's actually shooting less per minute than ever before, and his assist rate is the best it's ever been. Yet the same efficiency problems continue to plague him: his 48.3 TS% is the lowest since his rookie season, and he's turning the ball over a lot more, something we always wondered about with regard to his low assist rates.
With Brandon Knight playing much better basketball of late, the Brandon v. Brandon matchup is going to be a key factor in the game, and is sure to figure prominently in what we take away after tonight's contest. Revenge is an easy trope to roll with, and sticking it to the teams that stuck it to him has always been a Jennings trademark (if only he could play the Knicks 82 times a year). Bucks fans surely want to feel like the team made the right decision, but that's not something we'll really know until a few years down the road. For now, getting a 4th win would probably be plenty.
Pistons Update. Detroit scored an impressive road win over the Miami Heat last night, 107-97. I should lead with the fact that Dwyane Wade missed the game, but that shouldn't discount the Pistons' excellent shooting (51.3 FG%, 43.8 3P%) and a solid effort keeping LeBron James (23 pts, 5 reb, 6 ast, 6 TOs) in check. Outside shooting has been a problem for Detroit all year. They're 26th in total makes and 29th in percentage. They're also dead last in team free-throw percentage. The Pistons are money on two-pointers (6th in 2P%) but it's hard to get consistent, efficient scoring when you can't take advantage of two of the most valuable spots on the floor. Fatigue might also be a factor for the Pistons, who are playing their third game in four nights.
Injury Update. The last time I wrote a preview I was all like "Hey, the Bucks are finally kind of getting healthy!" and then BAM! everybody was hurt again. Caron Butler is expected to miss another game or two with a swollen knee, while Zaza Pachulia and Ersan Ilyasova continue to struggle through leg and ankle injuries. All those frontcourt ailments have meant more time for John Henson and Giannis Antetokounmpo, something few fans are complaining about. But against the imposing front line of Detroit, fewer bodies might just mean more punishment.