In true New Year fashion, Brandon Jennings must have forgot to switch his year from 2015 to 2016, because he was playing like this was last January.
Mr. ThinkImInThe90s went off Monday night against the Orlando Magic, scoring 17 points and dishing out 6 assists. But perhaps more impressive than the numbers were the through-the-legs passes, the behind-the-back moves, and the shimmy dances after three-point makes.
Throughout the first quarter of the Pistons season, Jennings was always a lurking question in the back of our minds. Both when the Pistons played well and strung wins together, and when the Pistons lost badly - the prospect of a Jennings return gave fans hope, but also lingering doubt on if he would come back to his January 2015 form of swag. After a D-League warm up and minor action against the Knicks, Wolves, and Pacers - Monday's game was his answer.
We all knew Brandon Jennings would bring energy off this struggling bench, I just don't think we expected it to be a Pulp Fiction-esque shot of adrenaline directly to the chest. The pace is noticeably faster, and the way it affects the other players on the court has been encouraging to see. Especially when it comes to Pistons rookie Stanley Johnson, who looks like a more confident player running in a fast-paced offense. When the Stanimal is running plays in half-court sets, you can tell he's a rookie (which is completely fine) - he's going through decisions rather than reacting to the play, and those decisions result in second guessed shots and late passes. The faster pace gives Stanimal more freedom to spread out and run with a little less set direction.
Jennings has played with great pace since he's returned. I was talking to Stanley today about it and he thinks it helps him.— Vincent Ellis (@Vincent_Ellis56) January 5, 2016
This pace is an identity Jennings wants for the entire second unit. After the game, in Brandon's post-game interview, he said as much telling Fox Sports Detroit after the starters grew the lead back, the second unit came in and, "you know what we do, we try to run as much as possible." This is music to the ears of Pistons fans who have been weathering the storm that was the Pistons bench through the first 35 games. Jennings wants to be the QB of this second unit, and he wants them to have a style all their own that adds a wrinkle into every opposing team's game plan.
This brings us to the elephant in the blog right now: all of the trade rumors surrounding Jennings. The New York media is salivating for a move to the point where if you go to search "Brandon Jennings" on Twitter, the search bars first suggestion comes back with "Brandon Jennings Knicks."
Before the season, the prospect of a Jennings trade made a lot of sense, and some would argue that it still does (but please SVG god, anyone other than the Knicks). Jennings' contract is up after this year, a contract that was considered a "good deal" at the time and practically a steal now at $8 million a year. But after seeing players like Reggie, Goran Dragic, and Brandon Knight get paid handsomely, it makes the idea of re-signing Jennings to continue playing on our bench much tougher. The question now for SVG is whether you keep him on board and make the playoff push at risk of losing him for nothing in return, or do you make a deal ahead of time and hope that the new pieces are just as if not more effective.
Before the season, I was a co-captain on team #tradeJennings, but I'm going to be the first to admit I was wrong. Jennings brings a different energy to the game than Reggie, a more frenetic, loose feel where you are never really sure what the possession holds. Sure, it can work against us at times, but it's a roll of the dice I'd be willing to take on my second unit if I'm SVG.
When Jennings was asked after the game if he thinks he will stay in Detroit, he responded with "I hope so. But we'll see." And after that performance against the Magic, I think many Pistons fans feel the same.