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News » Bucks to start Jennings Rookie point guard gets spot in opener

Bucks to start Jennings Rookie point guard gets spot in opener

Bucks to start Jennings  Rookie point guard gets spot in opener By CHARLES F. GARDNER

St. Francis - Ready or not, rookie Brandon Jennings will be in the Milwaukee Bucks' starting lineup on opening night Friday in Philadelphia.

The 20-year-old Jennings experienced some tough times during the preseason as he tried to defend opposing point guards and struggled with his perimeter shot.

But he also made some spectacular passes and major-league steals, giving glimpses of the potential that caused the Bucks to select him with the 10th pick in the June draft.

Bucks coach Scott Skiles confirmed after Tuesday's practice that Jennings would start and veteran Luke Ridnour would be the primary backup.

"I felt like both guys played really well in the preseason in most of their minutes," Skiles said. "It's just my call. Even when I talked to Luke, it's not like I could give Luke five set reasons.

"It's something I'm electing to do, start him (Jennings) from opening night and see what happens. It will then depend on how he plays, how we play, all those issues."

Jennings said it was "a dream come true" to start in the opener, but he stressed that he would need plenty of help from Ridnour and Roko Ukic, the Bucks' third point guard.

"I am excited, nervous, of course, as all rookies would be," Jennings said. "I just have to go out there and run the team and stay calm."

The 6-foot-1 Jennings posted a double-double against the Chicago Bulls on Oct. 13, scoring 10 points and adding 12 assists in a reserve role. He started the next three games as the Bucks went 1-2 against Minnesota, Charlotte and Detroit.

"I think it helped me a lot," Jennings said of gaining the starting experience. "My main thing is, be aggressive at the beginning.

"A lot of players don't get going until three minutes into the game. But I've got to get going early, get Michael Redd going, get Andrew Bogut going."

Bogut, the Bucks' 7-foot center, thinks Jennings can handle the starting role.

"He's as ready as he can be," Bogut said. "He's only had three weeks under his belt as an NBA player. Is he ready to come out and absolutely dominate an NBA game? Probably not.

"But he doesn't need to do that with the guys we've got on the floor. He just needs to be a solid point guard, get the ball moving, knock down open shots and get in the paint. That's why we drafted him."

Skiles said one reason he opted for Jennings was to allow him to benefit from the experience of the starting unit, while Ridnour should feel comfortable with either the first or second unit.

Ridnour played in 72 games with the Bucks last season and made 50 starts.

Jennings shot only 33% (30 of 91) during the preseason, including just 25% (6 of 24) from the three-point range. He said he has to adjust his game and not worry so much about his offense.

"Coach (Kelvin) Sampson said I shouldn't shoot any threes this year unless it's at the end of the shot clock or it's a wide-open shot," Jennings said.

"I've been working on my shot every day. I'm not really shooting any threes. I'm shooting 15- to 18-footers, and I've got to start knocking them down, because everybody is going to be doubling on Redd."

Jennings has been knocked around in pinball fashion on several occasions during the preseason, and more of that is sure to come. But every time he has been flattened by a big man's screen, Jennings has pulled himself off the floor.

"I was in Europe for a year, and that's physical over there," Jennings said of his experience in the Italian League. "They can grab you, punch you, all that type of stuff.

"One of my favorite players still today is Allen Iverson, and he gets knocked down on the ground a lot. We have kind of the same body frame. If he can get up, I can get up. That's how I see it."

Copyright 2009, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. (Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)

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