A night after scoring 55, Jennings moves on
The Milwaukee Bucks didn’t practice Sunday, but rookie point guard Brandon Jennings was back in the suburban training facility working on his shot a night after scoring 55 points in his seventh career game, the most by a rookie in the NBA in 41 years.
Jennings’ phenomenal performance in a 129-125 victory over Golden State elevated him into lofty company.
He broke Milwaukee’s franchise rookie scoring mark held by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, joined LeBron James as the only two players to score at least 55 points in a game before turning 21 and fell three points shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s NBA rookie record set in 1960.
“Last night, that’s the past,” Jennings told The Associated Press by phone after his Sunday session.
The 20-year-old from Los Angeles was back at work, just as he did last season as a pro overseas.
“I try to get 600, 700 shots up just to keep my rhythm going, to stay fresh like in Europe,” he said. “I never had a day off, so that’s something I’m kind of used to right now, is always playing and playing and playing.”
The prep star decided to skip college when he had trouble qualifying and moved to Europe, where he mostly sat the bench but said he learned a lot with twice daily practices. He also had little outside life beyond the gym, but his lack of playing time and questions about his jump shot had him dropping on the draft board until Milwaukee selected him 10th.
Against the Warriors, he missed his first three shots and went 4 of 13 from the field in the first half.
“I came back in the locker room and just said, ’Start making shots,”’ Jennings said. “I just had it in my head the whole time. Once I got out there (in the third quarter), the first couple of shots went in, then the third one went in, then the fourth one, then the fifth one went in.
“After a while, the rim kept looking like it got bigger and bigger and I couldn’t miss.”
Jennings hit his first 12 shots in a 29-point spree and only missed his final shot of the quarter, a 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds left. The performance effectively put any questions of his shaky jump shot to rest.
“My confidence is way sky high right now,” said Jennings, who has scored in double figures in six of his first seven games (he had nine points in the other).
It also has helped his teammates and coach Scott Skiles believe in him. Skiles said he had a similar feeling remembering Michael Jordan score at will one night.
“I was in a game when Michael had over 60 once. I don’t know exactly what to say,” Skiles said immediately after the victory. “(Jennings) felt we needed to be picked up and we went to our pick-and-roll game and spread the floor and he got hot again.”
Center Andrew Bogut wasn’t so sure.
“I don’t think we were working the roll game, I think we were just working the pick game,” Bogut said. “He was doing a hell of a job shooting the ball.”
Jennings, averaging 25.6 points, said Skiles’ belief in him is helping him not to worry about being pulled for an early mistake.
“For him to give me the opportunity to go out there and showcase my talent, I think that’s real big of him, especially because I’m just a rookie,” Jennings said. “A lot of coaches don’t give rookies a lot of chances.”
Jennings deferred the magnitude of his performance, only saying that being in the same sentence as James is “awesome.” He’s more interested in matching up with the Dallas Mavericks and Jason Kidd on Monday night, and he didn’t hesitate to say what his favorite moment of the season is so far.
“My first game of the season, playing down in Philly,” he said.
“I was real nervous. I think I play better when I’m nervous and I almost had a triple-double,” said Jennings, who finished with 17 points, nine assists and nine rebounds that night. “That was pretty impressive.”