How Detroit Pistons Brandon Jennings changed my mind

Jan 17, 2015; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Jennings (7) goes to the basket against Philadelphia 76ers defenders during the first quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 17, 2015; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Jennings (7) goes to the basket against Philadelphia 76ers defenders during the first quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

I despised Detroit Pistons point guard Brandon Jennings.

I had just watched him cut through the defense for an easy, wide open layup, or what should have been. Instead Jennings faked the shot, took two steps back, and hurled up a fade away jumper.

And the result? A much deserved brick.

I threw my hands up in the air, frustrated with what I thought was an over-the-top level of show boating. And then I had my mind-set that I wanted Jennings out of Detroit.

But my mind, like Jennings’ disposition, has changed. He is now my favorite player in Detroit, and it will remain that way as long as he’s in the Motor City.

At first, I only favored him by default (I got his t-shirt jersey after the Andre Drummond ones in size medium were all gone). But then he became my favorite player for legitimate reasons. I believed that the selfishness I thought I saw in his playing style reflected his off-the-court personality.

I was wrong.

Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

Shortly after Jennings’ missed jumper, I became enamored by his flashy passes and pull up three-pointers. He always played this way, but the hot-dogging didn’t lead to as many turnovers.

In exactly half a season (41 games) he turned the ball over 90 times, on pace to turn the ball over the fewest number of times in a season. This of course was before he ruptured his Achilles in late January.

His 20-point-20-assist night against the Magic solidified my belief and favoritism for Jennings. The Pistons were playing their best basketball with him on the floor. Nearly every player’s motor and love for the game were at their highest levels and it was easy for fans to notice it. I believe that if Jennings was fortunate enough to play the whole season, Detroit would’ve earned a playoff berth.

But four days after the stellar performance, he was ruled out for the season. And since then, Jennings has been on the path to recovery, displaying a poise beyond his years.

Jennings will turn 26 in September, entering the prime years, or what should be, of his career. There is uncertainty in how close he’ll be able to return to his previous form when his injury rehab is complete. Nonetheless, it’s inspiring to see his humbleness and patience through the situation.

Jennings continues to show support for the point guard of the future in Reggie Jackson. Instead of complaining or hinting at frustration with short subtweets like some NBA players have done, Jennings has accepted his role. And he seems to be more than content to be a Piston, playing under Stan Van Gundy.

From the glimpses of what we see on social media, Jennings is a simple, but generous man.

In the past, he has played in charity soccer and basketball events, and even donated $50,000 to victims of an earthquake in Italy while he was playing there. He enjoys watching NBA games of the past on NBATV in his home theatre and giving his opinions to fans on hip-hop music and historical icons of basketball.

Last week, rappers Drake and Meek Mill got into a twitter feud after Mill accused Drake of using a ghostwriter for his lyrics. Jennings put his two cents in, voicing his support for Drake and his diss track, Charged Up. In response, Meek Mill’s manager tweeted some choice words to Jennings and called him a bum. Jennings delivered a snarky, controlled response, only correcting one of the tweets’ misuse of the word “too.”

Many have mocked Jennings’ failure to reach his potential that was highly-touted when he became the first American player to play in the Euroleague straight out of high school. Doubters say that he will never be as good as he was before his last injury. But Jennings just responds with either silence or an update on how hard he is working.

Jennings couldn’t care less about what those who deny his abilities say.

They don’t define him, and they certainly don’t constantly occupy his thoughts like the comments of support do. He will never be the “next Allen Iverson” like some said when he was entering the draft, but he still has plenty of time left in his career to silence his critics.

Jennings might not have changed, but fan perception of him will continue to favor him more, regardless of when he first sees the floor in the upcoming season. Pistons fans can find comfort that their eventual backup point guard is a man who will make his team better. Jennings has matured and is arguably more of a leader now,–even though he won’t be a starter at the season’s start– than he has ever been.

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He’s the oldest player on the roster who has been with the Pistons at least two years. On a team full of constant roster turnover, he is one glimpse of stability, and Van Gundy has shown no signs of wanting to ship Jennings away. With a potential sixth man like Jennings on your team, why would you let him leave, especially if he’s happy in Detroit?

Jennings makes Pistons basketball exciting, bringing a flair to the game unlike anyone else on the team. With his style, he may not be liked, but he has his best intentions.

Later I learned that Jennings didn’t even mean to pass over the open lay in on purpose. He claimed that he thought Monta Ellis was behind him, and just created his own shot as a result. It was an honest mistake, just like my disapproval for him was.

Now, as a fan of his personality and his game, I want to be able to say this at the end of this season:

I understand Brandon Jennings.

Next: How Much Value Does Brandon Jennings have to the Pistons

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