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News » NBA Notebook: Early returns point to Jennings as NBA's top rookie

NBA Notebook: Early returns point to Jennings as NBA's top rookie

NBA Notebook: Early returns point to Jennings as NBA's top rookie Like of lot of NBA people, I didn't have high hopes for Brandon Jennings after evaluating his season in Europe with Lottomatica Roma.

Unable to jump to the NBA directly, Jennings became the first high profile player to sign with a European team since the NBA's age restriction rule was implemented.

Since Jennings didn't qualify academically for Arizona, he made a bold and mature decision to make money instead of spending a year on some junior college campus chasing girls while waiting to become draft eligible.

The Los Angeles native inked a 1-year, $1.65 million guaranteed deal with Lottomatica and a $2 million dollar endorsement contract with Under Armour to showcase their products in the Euroleague.

During 27 games in the overly-structured, fundamentally obsessed Italian Lega A, Jennings averaged just 5.5 points, 1.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.5 steals in 17.0 minutes per game. He shot a miserable 35.1 percent from the field and a dismal 20.7 percent from three-point range in Lega A play.

In 16 Euroleague games, Jennings improved to 7.6 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.2 steals in 19.6 minutes per game, while shooting 38.7 percent from the field and 26.8 percent from three -- still not impressive,

Instead of a sure-fire top five pick, Jennings began to drift in most mock drafts after his disappointing performance overseas. The upside was still there but the 20-year-old point guard looked like a multi-year project.

In fact, Jennings never took his seat in the "green room" at Madison Square Garden during the draft and we were told he wasn't there as the whispers circulated that he would continue to fall.

Just as ESPN was likely putting together a Jennings montage backed up by Tom Petty's Free-Fallin', Milwaukee took the leap and selected the dynamic playmaker with the 10th pick. He then magically appeared on stage later in the evening.

After seeing Jennings in his NBA debut in Philadelphia, I felt like one of those new-breed baseball scouts that live and die by black-and-white numbers on a sheet of paper...scouts that never actually take the time to see the player they are supposed to be evaluating,

Jennings is breathtakingly quick with the ball. Maybe even a tick above a Tony Parker or Rajon Rondo. In the third quarter I nudged the reporter next to me, pointing at his stats."Jennings might get a triple-double," I said.

Instead he finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, just short of joining the great Oscar Robertson as the second player in NBA history to record a triple-double in his debut.

It brought back memories of his senior season at powerhouse Oak Hill Academy where Jennings averaged 32.7 points, 7.5 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 3.7 steals per game, earning the 2008 Naismith High School Basketball Player of the Year, 2008 Parade Magazine Player of the Year and 2008 EA Sports Player of the Year.

With presumptive Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin missing the early portion of the NBA season with an injury, Jennings has vaulted to the top of the rookie class, averaging nearly 19 points a contest along with 4.8 assists, 4.5 four rebounds, and just under two steals.

Among first-year players Jennings is first in points, tied for fourth in rebounds, second in assists, sixth in field goal percentage, third in three point percentage, second in free throw percentage, tied for first in steals and first in minutes.

Jennings may have been the fourth point guard taken but he's clearly the best.

The jumper is still shaky and you can bet the opposition will start sagging off forcing Jennings to shoot over the top, but that's the kind of adjustment all rookies need to make.

Basketball IS REALITY

Reality television is a genre of programming that purportedly presents unscripted dramatic and or humorous situations.

The key word there is "purportedly" since anyone that has suffered through 22 minutes of The Hills or Hogan Knows Best is going to be a little suspicious of the "unscripted" aspect of reality TV.

The genre exploded in the early 2000s with the advent of two series, Survivor and American Idol, which topped the Nielsen ratings but, to me ,the only real reality television is professional sports.

Think about, live event programming where the outcome is always in doubt unless Tim Donaghy is involved.

That said, I've been waiting for "conventional reality television" to tackle Basketball and no, Pat Croce's Slamball doesn't count.

Well it's here. America's Next Sports Star, a Basketball contest series that gives struggling athletes a second chance at playing professional Basketball, premieres on Versus Nov. 10.

Former Bulls sharpshooter Craig Hodges will host the weekly half-hour series that, according to the producers, will feature the best unsigned Basketball players from three U.S cities competing against one another to win a shot at the pros.

"This is a show about second chances," said executive producer George Tisen. "A lot of the players we feature on the show were streetball legends, high school upstarts or genuine college prospects.

"Somewhere along the fast track to the pros, they fell off the rails. The real contenders have worked on their game, matured their attitude and are ready to realize their lifelong dream of playing pro Basketball. Second chances are critical in sports and in life, and we're thrilled to be giving a handful of super talented athletes the second chance they deserve with this show."

Open tryouts were held in Brooklyn, Miami and Newark.

In each episode, viewers will see how players were evaluated through a series of tough, pro-level skills challenges, including passing, shooting, ball handling, a slam dunk competition and a series of 1-on-1, 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 competitions.

Joining Hodges on the show are a number of weekly special guests, including former pro players Jerome Henderson, Bryon Russell, Larry Spriggs, Andre Spence and Freeman Williams as well as former coaches, including Fred Vinson.

No truth to the rumor that the winner will receive a deal with the Clippers.


Two hundred NBA prospects made up the 2009 NBA Development League Draft pool last week, none more interesting than Latavious Williams, a 6-8 small forward, who became the first player to enter into the D-League Draft directly from high school.

Williams, a native of Starkville, Miss. most recently attended Christian Life Center, a prep school in Humble, Texas. He was heavily recruited by various NCAA teams and had previously committed to play at Memphis before changing gears and saying he was heading overseas to avoid the NBA's minimum age requirement.

Problem is European teams don't really want to become one-and-done stopovers like college, so only ultra-talented players like Jennings will get a nibble.

The NBDL is a perfect alternative and Williams should be the first of many to take advantage.


Thanks to Rockets PR star Luis Nelson for correcting me on Daryl Morey's postseason "tweet." I was originally informed that the Rockets GM "tweeted" that his club was the second-best team in the NBA after their impressive performance against the Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals last season.

Morey actually stated that he had received a text from Ron Artest saying that "We should be the second best team in the NBA based on how we played against the Lakers."

Morey's original "tweet" was: "Spoke to Ron upon landing in HOU from CHI pre- draft camp. He thinks no one else will take the LAL to 7 gms and we were the #2 team this year."

Either way, the Rockets certainly gave LA a tougher time than either Denver or Orlando last season.

A sequel is unlikely, however, since Artest joined the enemy and Yao Ming is sidelined for the season.

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: November 8, 2009


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