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Brandon Jennings feels like he can't win

After the Bucks fell 106-93 to the Wizards, Brandon Jennings voiced some frustration with how his new style of play has been received.


Recapping the Bucks' 106-93 loss to the Washington Wizards over at Behind the Buck Pass, K L Chouinard brings us a quote from Brandon Jennings I found rather interesting:

"I haven’t been shooting as much, but when I was shooting it was a problem", Jennings said after the game. "So now that I’m not shooting, it’s like, ‘Oh he doesn't want to play basketball’, but I do, it’s just that I’m looking for my teammates more."

That's almost certainly a more far-reaching answer than what was begged by the question preceding it, but it serves quite well to illustrate the "What do you want from me?" attitude Jennings has floated out there from time to time this season.

There have been far worse games in Jennings' career than the one he played Wednesday night. In fact, one of the best things about Jennings' new style has been the lack of truly horrific performances--those 3-17 nights that shoot Milwaukee's offense out of any hope for efficiency. By virtue of his boosted assist numbers and decreased field-goal attempts, Jennings has been at least mildly productive in every game this month, and downright spectacular in more than half. This calls into question the very idea that some large group of people--Bucks fans, media, anyone--could be heaping criticism on Jennings for changing his game the way he has. By most accounts the praise he's gotten lately has been the most glowing since the earliest weeks of his rookie season, even if it has come with reservations. His max contract demands would be totally within reason if we knew 17 points and 12 assists per game were the norm. But most everybody knows that simply isn't the case, and it's going to take more than 7 games to prove otherwise.

Still, it's understandable why Jennings could be frustrated. Chouinard reported that things may have gotten loud at halftime with the Bucks plodding their way toward what looked like a crushing defeat. J.J. Redick said after the game that Monta Ellis was the most vocal of all. If any criticism came Jennings' way, especially from a guy he seems to admire as much as Monta, a defensive reaction is hardly shocking. Counter-productive? Probably. Immature? Maybe. But understandable.

The ever-present conundrum that has surrounded Jennings for essentially his entire career is how to manage expectations. There was bound to be backlash against Jennings if his exquisite production didn't hold up, even if his performance these days is far more team-dependent than back when he just lobbed up shot after shot. But it's as much on Brandon to accept that as it is on fans to figure out what exactly we want from him. Professional basketball isn't exactly a shining beacon of justice, and the notion of a player actually shifting his approach game-to-game in response to fan chatter is laughable. I don't think that's what is really happening here; this is likely just a particularly candid look at a guy who invariably takes a lot of heat when his team comes up short.

And truthfully, his probably wouldn't have come up had the Bucks beaten the Wizards. Bad stuff gets amplified after losses, just like good stuff after wins. There were positives and negatives in Jennings' game and it was convenient to cast ire on the latter because the team didn't perform. There's obviously some truth to that--the Bucks' roster isn't exactly designed to thrive when Jennings scores 8 points and misses 3/4 of his shots, even if that's a small raw value. But that's more than a knock on Jennings. It's a knock on the people who put him and the team in such a position.

Which brings it all back around to us, the fans, and ultimately the organization. We can raise hell about players playing poorly and managers managing miserably and all of that because our expectations are high, as they should be. But when the decision-makers get something wrong because of poor planning or the like, everyone pays for it--even the guy who's just trying to make everybody happy. The Bucks roster isn't a complete mess. The situation might be easier to resolve (if it hadn't already resolved itself) if it were. It's good enough that a particularly fine stretch of games from one of its marquee players can quickly whip up a bulwark of well demand for more, more, more. When the well dries up everybody feels a lot thirstier than when they started. Jennings might not be the same player he always was, but he almost certainly isn't the player everybody wants him to be. He's just trying to figure out where he fits, same as the rest of us.