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‘Young Buck’ Jennings turns into draft prize

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Garry D. Howard
May 4, 2010
— It all started about a year ago on NBA draft night last June, when Young Buck began freefalling down the lottery board at Madison Square Garden.

Blake Griffin glides to the Los Angeles Clippers, who have the No. 1 overall pick.


No surprise there. …


Hasheem Thabeet No. 2, James Harden No. 3 and Tyreke Evans, point guard extraordinaire, all find homes, with Evans heading to Sacramento at No. 4 for a soon-to-be Rookie of the Year campaign.


Still, no surprise. …


Then Minnesota takes Spanish alleged sensation, Ricky Rubio, with the No. 5 pick … and the Timberwolves turn around and select Syracuse’s diminutive ironman, Jonny Flynn, with the No. 6 pick.


Hmmmm. …


Next up, the Golden State Warriors take shooter supreme Stephen Curry of tiny Davidson with the No. 7 pick and the New York Knicks, still desperate for a point guard, follow that up with, surprise, power forward Jordan Hill at No. 8.


That was the straw.


Brandon Jennings, somewhere in New York City, was most likely confused, upset and basically ticked off. He had been pulled out of the green room on the morning of the draft because his agent, Bill Duffy, had no inkling when his client would be selected.


Thankfully, Brandon doesn’t hear the Toronto Raptors select DeMar DeRozan with the No. 9 pick.


And he doesn’t hear NBA commissioner David Stern’s announcement that should be music to his ears: “With the No. 10 pick, the Milwaukee Bucks select Brandon Jennings.”


Somebody from his crew does, and Brandon rushes back to the Garden midway through the first round in his sharp black suit, white shirt and boss lavender tie to pick up his hat and jersey and get his swagger back.


Four point guards and a questionable pick by the questionable Knicks amounted to a professional screen Brandon did not see, one that knocked him on his backside.


It wouldn’t be the last time.


Over and over again this season—and today, at least three general managers have egg all over their faces after Jennings led the Bucks on an improbable journey to respectability and, more important, the playoffs.


What a season for Young Buck.


No, it didn’t start like he dreamed it would, and his memorable chat with rapper Joe Budden didn’t help endear the obviously talented point guard to Wisconsinites or the NBA world, either.


What did, over the course of an eye-opening season, was a fierce determination, a high basketball IQ and a coach who finally has figured out the formula for success in the NBA.


After cleaning out his locker on Monday morning at the Bucks’ practice facility—along with his band of overachievers—Jennings no doubt felt pride for his journey into this league.


“You’re always going to have that chip on your shoulder because the Bucks don’t really get the respect they should,” he confessed. “Hopefully we caught some eyes this season. Next year, we’ve just got to come in with the same intensity the first day of training camp.


“Our main goal is to get back to the playoffs and try to get out of the first round.”


Yes, in an effort to get his NBA playing license quicker, Brandon left the U.S. to sign professionally with Virtus Roma of the Italian League in lieu of the more traditional college route at the University of Arizona, a school to which he had committed. And, yes, after a tough year in Europe, where playing time was sparse, he was quite dismayed that he was still around at No. 10 in the draft.


But his disappointment morphed into Bucks general manager John Hammond’s glee.


And today, Milwaukee has a point guard who, in just his seventh NBA game, scored 55 points—the most of any player in the league this season—and who ended up a with very debatable third-place finish in the NBA Rookie of the Year voting.


Today, the Bucks have a chance to reflect on a season that shocked all media experts.


Milwaukee now has a dynamic duo in Brandon and center Andrew Bogut, who also turned in a wonderful season. Together, the pair helped the Bucks build a respectable 46-26 mark with 28 home victories in the regular season.


And let’s not forget that first-round, postseason battle with the Atlanta Hawks, who proved too long and too talented in Games 6 and 7 for the group of players at Scott Skiles’ disposal.


“As long as we’re winning that’s all I care about,” Brandon added Monday. “Win about 50 games next year and try to get out of the first round.”


Yes, today we are talking about a very bright future for the Bucks. … And all because Brandon Jennings had a bad draft night.


There are thousands of converts in Wisconsin today who are happy he fell.



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