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News » Karl gets to the point Jennings makes good impression

Karl gets to the point Jennings makes good impression

Karl gets to the point  Jennings makes good impression By CHARLES F. GARDNER

George Karl said before Wednesday's game that he wasn't sure what impact point guard Brandon Jennings could have on the Milwaukee Bucks .

But the Denver Nuggets coach gave the 20-year-old Jennings his due after a 32-point, nine-assist performance by the rookie helped Milwaukee to a 108-102 victory over Denver at the Bradley Center.

"He made a lot of open shots tonight; he was very good," Karl said. "We're going to have to make some reads on how to play him next time we play him. You have to figure out if you want to be more physical, more aggressive with him."

Karl was most impressed by the way Jennings confidently made back-to-back three-pointers during a crucial stretch of the fourth quarter. The big shots came against the Nuggets' Mr. Big Shot, Chauncey Billups, and extended the Bucks' lead from one point to 97-90.

"I thought those were gutty plays, big plays," Karl said. "I was kind of surprised by it. But sometimes when you make the first one, the second one is easier."

Karl said it's a bit too early to fully evaluate Jennings, and the former Bucks coach admitted before the game he hadn't studied the rookie too thoroughly.

"That's way too hard for me after watching two films," Karl said. "My gut says it's going to be real interesting to see who is the best (rookie) point guard this season. This kid in Minnesota (Jonny Flynn) is pretty good. I think our kid (Ty Lawson) is pretty good, and I think Jennings is pretty good.

"But I'm not going to go prognosticating on a guy coming in here and making the city of Milwaukee love Basketball again. Wow, I'm not going there."

Karl went on to compare Jennings to a left-handed point guard the Nuggets coach played with back in the early 1970s, when Karl was a rookie with the San Antonio Spurs of the American Basketball Association.

"He reminds me a little of Bird Averitt, who I played with," Karl said. "He was left-handed and quick as heck. This kid has a lot more polish than Bird had.

"I think the way they're using him is great. They're giving him a lot of latitude, a lot of window."

Jennings also matched up against Lawson and Billups as the Bucks met one of the top teams in the Western Conference.

Karl certainly didn't know he would have such a run of success in Denver during the last five seasons.

He was fired by the Bucks following a disappointing 2002-'03 season and was out of Basketball the next season, before being hired by the Nuggets after they got off to a poor start in the 2004-'05 season.

He has led Denver to the playoffs in five straight seasons, including a trip to the Western Conference finals last season, when the Nuggets lost in six games to the Los Angeles Lakers.

But Karl still reserves a few of his fondest memories for his time with the Bucks , particularly the 2000-'01 season when the Bucks just missed reaching the NBA Finals.

"Every team and every coach has a personality," Karl said. "When I got here I tried to play Seattle defense, and it didn't work. We had to throw it out the window. All of a sudden I forgot how to play defense and was a good offensive coach.

"We had a bunch of good offensive players, and we could shoot. We developed a philosophy of shooting quick, shooting a lot and trying to make the other team shoot back at us. It was pretty successful.

"Ray Allen was a tremendous talent. Sam Cassell was a very unique point guard, and I loved my time with Sam. And Big Dog (Glenn Robinson) was a great scorer. At times he was difficult to coach, but for the most part he was a winner for me."

The Bucks lost to Philadelphia in a seven-game Eastern Conference final series in 2001, but Karl said the semifinal series against the Charlotte Hornets was even more memorable.

"The year we went to the conference finals the city had a tremendous spirit, a tremendous energy to it," Karl said. "There were 10 or 11 days where the city was alive with intensity and electricity.

"And the series before that was one of the better series I've ever coached in. We were down, 3-2, and had to go down there (to Charlotte) and win Game 6. It was a lot of hard-nosed Basketball that makes everybody love the NBA playoffs."

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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