Remember THAT Brandon Jennings. The one that seemed an unstoppable force at the beginning of the season. The one with a legendary 55 point game that turned heads.
We all miss that Brandon Jennings. Of late he has been stoppable. Very stoppable. And he knows it, just not why it is happening.
“I actually don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “I work on it every day; I come in here early. I’m just in a slump. But the main thing is we’re winning, so you can’t be mad at that. As a point guard, you’ve just got to lead your team and do other things.”
A slump means you can do something but just are in a little stretch where things are not working for whatever reason.
But Jennings entered the league with questions about his outside shot and over the course of the season he has proved those critics right. Jennings hits just 39.7% of his shots right at the rim (dunks and layups), 37% of his shots from the rim to 10 feet, 30.6% of his shots from 10 to 15 and 35% from 16 feet out to the free throw line. Things have been worse lately but they have never been good. (Stats via the rockin’ people at Hoopdata.)
Jennings isn’t slumping — he’s not a very good outside shoot.
The early season games — when he caught other teams off guard with his quickness and was getting so many shots seemingly uncontested at the rim — were the outlier. The bad shooting lately is more the norm.
It’s also something that can be fixed. A shooting coach and 600 jumpers a day during the off-season can do wonders for a guy. Jennings already is showing a lot of what should mean a long and productive NBA career — he has great handles, makes good decisions (nearly three assists for every turnover) and can defend. If he can get a shot, he will be that much more dangerous.
But it’s not a question of getting it out of a slump. It’s getting it, period.
Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.
Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.
But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.
LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.
LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.
However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.
For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.
Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.
Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:
Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.