Brandon Jennings said back in July that he felt some around the NBA questioned his love for the game. It sounds like he’s looking to prove that perception wrong this season.
“I’m as hungry as I’ve ever been now. I’m on a one-year deal. I’m coming off an Achilles injury, everybody [wrote] me off. So right now I’m hungry, I’m more hungry than ever,” Jennings said last week on The Stashed’s “33rd & 7th” podcast with Anthony Donahue.
The New York Knicks are hoping that Jennings can provide points for a second unit that could prove to be a bit thin. The club used about 88 percent of its available cap space this summer on starters; Phil Jackson & Co. filled out their bench with a mix of returning veterans (Lance Thomas, Sasha Vujacic, Kyle O'Quinn) and unproven free agents.
New York is banking on one of the new faces (Justin Holiday, Willy Hernangomez, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Maurice Ndour, Marshall Plumlee, Ron Baker, Chasson Randle, J.P. Tokoto) shouldering a significant role.
But if Jennings can carry the scoring load on a nightly basis, that will make things easier for Jeff Hornacek & Co.
A six-year veteran, Jennings flashed brilliance in Milwaukee before enduring injury-riddled stints with the Pistons and Magic. He suffered a torn left Achilles in January 2015, and in the last half of the 2015-16 season with the Magic he produced 20 points or more on three occasions, as well as a pair of double-digit assist outings.
He signed a one-year, $5 million deal with New York over the summer; he's expected to provide insurance for Rose and provide a spark as the first player off the bench.
Jennings said in July that Jackson expects him to win the NBA’s Sixth Man award this season. He’s fine with those expectations, as well as coming off the bench in New York after starting 90 percent of his first 460 regular-season games.
“At the end of the day, right now I just want to win, man. I just want to be in a winning environment,” Jennings, whose teams have won 45 percent of the games he's played in, told Donahue. “I’m in the biggest market, the greatest basketball city, the Mecca, so who cares [about coming off the bench]? Let’s just win. We win, the whole city loves us.”
The Knicks have missed the playoffs for the past three seasons. But Jennings, who has worked out with Carmelo Anthony, Joakim Noah, Kristaps Porzingis, Vujacic and others over the summer, believes New York can snap that drought this season.
“Playoffs is good, but just making the first round isn’t good enough,” he said. “So I’m going to go out on a limb and put a little more pressure on us. If we make the playoffs, we’ve got to get out of the first round.”
Bold expectations for a team that won 32 games last season. If the Knicks qualify for the playoffs in what could be a crowded Eastern Conference, the guess here is that Jennings will have played a major role.
Jennings on Kaepernick: Jennings was asked on the podcast for his opinion on Colin Kaepernick's refusal to stand during the national anthem to protest racial oppression and inequality in the United States.
“I like it. He’s taking a stand for what he believes in. People who think it’s wrong, ask him why he is doing it,” Jennings said. “Everybody's just thinking he’s just disrespecting the flag. No, he’s making a stand about what’s going on in America. It’s not about, he’s disrespecting anybody. He’s just like, 'Yo, I'm just making a stand.' And the fact that he has a voice, it just shows that, 'I'm an athlete, I make a lot of money, people support me, people buy my things, so why I can't support the world? ... Everybody's going to have their opinion whether it’s right or wrong. But at least let a man speak and hear what he has to say first before you just judge him off of what he does.”
Jennings also touched on several other topics in his interview with Donahue. It's worth a listen.