Knicks' Brandon Jennings: 'I just feel like myself again'

Backup Knicks point guard Brandon Jennings has four points, five assists and four rebounds in place of an absent Derrick Rose. Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK -- Brandon Jennings gained some weight while rehabbing his Achilles injury in 2015. He says at one point he weighed about 210 pounds. But since returning to the court in late December, he has slimmed down significantly.

And a lighter, quicker Jennings impressed the home crowd on Saturday in the New York Knicks' win over the Brooklyn Nets.

Starting in place of Derrick Rose (attending a civil trial in Los Angeles), Jennings had four points, five assists and four rebounds in 14 minutes on Saturday. The Knicks outscored the Nets by 12 with Jennings on the floor.

"I feel great. I feel faster. I hope I look faster," Jennings said after the game. "... I just feel like myself again."

That's good news for the Knicks, who will need big minutes from Jennings if and when Rose isn't available.

On Saturday, Jennings provided more highlights in two possessions than the entire Knick roster did on some nights over the last two seasons.

First, he fed Kristaps Porzingis with a 40-foot bounce pass that Porzingis finished with a dunk. Then, after stealing the ball from Brooklyn's Yogi Ferrell, he flipped a pass behind his head to Marshall Plumlee for another dunk.

The Garden crowd, which bore witness to one of the NBA's slowest teams over the last two seasons, ate up the highlight plays.

"He's been playing like that since he was in high school," Carmelo Anthony (16 points, 6-for-11 shooting) said of Jennings, who signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Knicks over the summer. "Nothing has changed. You can tell he's feeling good about himself. He's feeling healthy. He's got that joy about being back out there on the court."

Jennings, of course, is a key piece for a club that hopes to push the pace this season under Jeff Hornacek. And Jennings, who is down to 175 pounds, feels like he's physically capable of helping the Knicks get up and down the court.

"The pace we're at right now, I love it," he said late Saturday.

After two games, the Knicks are at eight possessions per 48 minutes more than last season.

Randle impresses: Chasson Randle made a strong case for a regular-season roster spot on Saturday night. In 21 minutes, Randle had 14 points, two assists and three steals.

Other players battling for a roster spot also played well: Ron Baker impressed, finishing with nine points and hitting both of his 3-point attempts. Willy Hernangomez (14 points) and Maurice Ndour (12 points) also played well.

Knicks management and the coaching staff will have some tough decisions to make if they choose to keep Randle, Baker or JP Tokoto on the regular-season roster. New York already has 15 players under guaranteed contracts and would need to cut one -- thereby wasting the guaranteed money -- in order to keep Randle, Baker or Tokoto, all of whom are signed to partially guaranteed contracts. Hornacek has said that the Knicks won't hesitate to cut a player on a guaranteed deal if the situation calls for it.

Carmelo, for one, has been impressed by Randle.

"I love him. I just love his poise out there, the way he controls the game, controls the basketball," Anthony said. "He can push the pace. He can slow it down. I think you guys would love him too the more that you see him play."