MILWAUKEE Brandon Jennings has known Derrick Rose since their high school days, when Rose was the top-rated point guard a year ahead of Jennings, who held the same status in his own class. The two have had some memorable battles, including when Rose led his Simeon Career Academy team to an upset over Jennings No. 1-ranked Oak Hill Academy squad in Jennings junior season.
While Jennings hasnt come out on top much when matched against Rose on the NBA level, his familiarity with the leagues reigning MVP does allow him to provide some insight into facing off with the Chicago native.
With him, youve got to double him early. Youve got to get the ball out of his hands early in the game and just try to make the other guys make plays for their team, Jennings said after the Bucks Wednesday-morning shootaround at the Bradley Center. A lot of guards dont like to try to go back at him, but at the same time, scorers dont like for other people to go at them also, so I think its important that I just stay aggressive and stay on the attack.
It doesnt help matters that a large Chicago contingent made the relatively short trip to Milwaukee to support the Bulls, something that makes Jennings believe that it will be important for the Bucks to get off to a quick start.
Hes one of the best point guards in the NBA, the reigning MVP. Its going to be a great atmosphere in here tonight, especially with the Bulls coming in town. Were just trying to get the win, said Jennings. Ive played in bigger, crazier environments than that, especially playing in Europe. It should be fun. Chicagos not so far away, so a lot of Chicago fans come out to Milwaukee. It should be a crazy atmosphere.
Its going to be real important, just for the fact that theyre bringing down their crowd. Its going to be loud in there and weve been struggling with this team a lot, but right now, I think the team has an uptick and hopefully we can show it tonight, he continued. Its going to take 48 minutes for us to contain the Bulls. Theyre a great team, No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference right now, so its not going to be easy. Were going to have total focus for 48 minutes.
For Roses part, while he frequently acknowledges that opposing point guards are all coming at me, he looks at the Central Division showdown from a team perspective.
Milwaukee, theyre playing great right now, won some big games and playing good basketball, competing every night, he said. Its going to be hard going down there and competing against them.
Added Joakim Noah: Milwaukees going to be tough. Every NBA team is tough and we know that weve got to have the right mindset.
If we come with the right mindset, well have a better chance of winning, so we know that well be focused. Were on a mission right now and we have a lot of fans up there, as well, so were always excited to go out there and play.
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was complimentary of both Jennings and the Bucks, who have struggled with injuries to center Andrew Bogut, as a whole.
Each year hes gotten a lot better. I think over the last three games, hes averaging over 30 points a game. Theyve had misfortune and theyve had Bogut being out.
The team is built around Bogut and Jennings, and so, youre missing a significant part, but that being said, this team plays extremely hard, theyre in every game and theyve had some great wins this year, theyre very dangerous, theyre a well-balanced team, they share the ball, they play hard defensively and they have some tough matchups because they have a number of guys who can put it on the floor, he explained.
Although the Bucks wouldnt make the postseason if the playoffs started today, Jennings feels they have a chance to make a push.
Were three or four games out of the playoff race, so hopefully we can get this one tonight and get the Knicks on Friday, he said. That eighth spot is right there. Hopefully the Knicks can keep losing because they did make their run before the All-Star break, so hopefully this is our time to make our run and try to get between the seventh and eighth spot.
One of the more active players during the lockout the third-year point guard, who gained recognition as a rookie for scoring 55 points in a game, played in exhibition games from Washington, D.C., to his hometown of Los Angeles although Jennings missed making the All-Star Game, he believes his active offseason is playing off, despite the Bucks struggles.
"All of it did, man. I think just staying busy and showing that I love the game of basketball, no matter what. Just playing for free, playing for fun and just going to parks, 24-Hour Fitnesses, anything to just try to get hoop in. It was just great for me, said Jennings. I didnt take too much time off. I might have took like a month off, but after that, I just got back going and stayed in the gym the whole time.
Just being more aggressive on the offensive end and also making sure it carries over to the defensive end, and just trying to give the team a spark and just attacking the basket more, he continued. Its been an up-and-down season because of the lockout. No training camp, were just coming in and out, not a lot of practices, guys getting hurt, so its been tough and all the games thats just been on us, back-to-back.