Brandon Jennings reflects on his the beginnings of his basketball career, AAU life, and repping Compton

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If there’s any kind of underlying theme for the current lockout, it’s NBA players of all ilks returning “home.” For some, it’s less literal; plenty of young NBA players have returned to the college campuses they once called their own in an effort to complete their degrees and, in some cases, compete against the players suiting up for their alma mater. For those playing in the Goodman League and the Drew League, it could be a return back to the league that fostered their basketball beginnings, a way to give back to the basketball system that raised them as players.

Then, at ESPN Los Angeles, the Kamenetzky brothers have been rattling of installments of a tremendous series entitled “The L.A. in my Game,” connecting with NBAers from the L.A. area to fully understand how the city itself functions in the scope of player identity. Up this week is an interview with Brandon Jennings, and though he has plenty of interesting responses — ranging from him rattling off a list of future NBA stars that his team bested in AAU ball to dubbing Baron Davis the “Godfather of Los Angeles basketball,” — one in particular stood out to me:

Andy Kamenetzky: What does it mean to you to be a player from L.A. and part of that lineage of players people think about from this city?

Brandon Jennings: Well, first of all, a lot of people say “L.A.,” but I claim “Compton.” I claim the city of Compton hard, because there’s not a lot of players that came out of Compton. A lot of players didn’t really come out of Compton that made it. When people say “L.A.,” I say, “Oh, I’m from Compton.” Being from the city of Compton and growing up in a rough community, it means a lot to me to be able to make it out of there. A lot of players came through there. Tayshaun Prince came through there. DeMar DeRozan. Tyson Chandler went to Dominguez for four years. I went to Dominguez and I grew up out of there, so for me, that’s really big. To this day, there’s nothing like it, to be able to come out of Compton and make it to the NBA.

Next year, hopefully, when the lockout ends and we can get things rolling, I really wanna dig back into the community of Compton and also Gardena. Because those are the places where I grew up and where I hung out. That’s all I really know. So hopefully, next year, we can start a league in Compton or Gardena and we can do our own little thing.

The distinction there is important, if only as a way to best understand Jennings; it’s important to him that people know that he’s not just another L.A. product. No one exactly needs to put Compton on the map, but Jennings wants to represent the are and, better yet, to serve it. He doesn’t aspire to be another list on the sheet of players with “L.A. in their game,” but a genuine trail blazer for the basketball players in Compton who made it out but is never afraid to look back. That’s as close as you’ll get to fitting Jennings in a nutshell.

LeBron James bought Cavs teammates matching designer suits to wear to game tonight

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I’m still trying to decide if this is cool or a little too Stepford.

The Cavaliers rolled into the Bakers’ Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis tonight wearing matching designer suits, all paid for by LeBron James and custom fitted to each player.

If a college team rolled into a game in four-digit designer suits, the NCAA would have questions. And not about the vests.

The Cavaliers are LeBron’s team, and if he wants to buy his teammates suits and tell them to wear them it’s going to happen. Is it a bonding thing that helps bring them together? Sure. Is it in place to make sure LeBron remembers which ones are his new teammates? Probably not.

Do the suits help on the court? No. And the Cavaliers better bring it in Game 3 because if they go down 2-1 in this series — something that is a realistic possibility — the whispers of doubt are going to get a lot louder.

Report: Knicks to discuss coaching vacancy with Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer

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Mike Budenholzer is restless in Atlanta, seeing a rebuild coming and looking at other jobs (something Hawks management is fine with). He went down the road a ways with the Suns before pulling out of that process, but he’s still looking around.

The Knicks are casting a wide net in their search, talking to virtually everyone looking for coaching jobs.

So, this seemed inevitable, right? Budenholzer and the Knicks are going to talk, according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

This will be very preliminary. The Knicks have already had some level of conversation with Mark Jackson, David Fizdale, Jerry Stackhouse, David Blatt, Mike Woodson, and TNT analyst Kenny Smith (Jackson and Fizdale are the rumored early leaders). Budenholzer has established a style and culture in Atlanta, giving the franchise a path forward. New York could certainly use that.

However, the Knicks job comes with real challenges, too. That starts with James Dolan as owner and the erratic, at times paranoid culture he has created there. Also, expectations in New York are always high, but the team will be without Kristaps Porzigis for at least half (maybe all) of the upcoming season as he recovers from an ACL injury, and that puts a ceiling on the team in the short term. Is all that worth leaving Atlanta for?

 

Stephen Curry to begin “modified” practices with Warriors

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Golden State has flipped the switch in the first round, going up 3-0 on overmatched San Antonio. The Warriors have been outscoring the Spurs by 20.2 points per 100 possessions in the series, allowing less than a point per possession on defense and scoring when and where they want. Kevin Durant is averaging 27.3 points per game, Klay Thompson is shooting 63.3 percent from three and scoring 25.7 points per game, and the Warriors are clicking.

But they are not yet whole — they need Stephen Curry back. Not for this round, but before the Western Conference Finals for sure.

Curry was re-evaluated Friday and will begin practicing with the team in a limited — or “modified” to use the team’s term — way.

The target has always been a return somewhere during the second round, and that still seems to be on track. That is also a little faster than traditional for a Grade 2 MCL sprain, which can take up to two months to heal (not the 4-6 weeks of the Warriors timeline), but the Warriors are being cautious here for now.

Eventually, the Warriors will need him back — their offense is built around Curry and his ball movement and movement off the ball. Curry’s gravity to draw defenders, even when he doesn’t have the ball, opens up the floor for others. Put simply, if he’s 28 feet from the bucket on the weak side defenders still have to watch and be near him, and help defenders need to be aware, which pulls the defense to wherever he is. Without Curry and the Warriors take more midrange jumpers, it’s just in the first round series against the Spurs they are hitting them.

 

Kenyon Martin: I once played high

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Former NBA commissioner David Stern said the league began testing for marijuana because players complained of other players playing high. Chauncey Billups said he knew teammates who played better high.

But Stephen Jackson is the rare former NBA player who admitted to playing high.

Now, he has company.

Kenyon Martin – who played for the Nets, Nuggets, Clippers, Knicks and Bucks in a 15-year career – via Bleacher Report:

We were playing in Indiana one day. I wasn’t feeling well. I had a hamstring, a hip or something. So, I smoked. I wasn’t going to play originally. So, we got to the arena, and I’m like, “I feel good.” I went and told the trainer, “I’m going to go today.” I went out there and had a great game.

If you want to guess which game this was, here are the possibilities.

This was part of a great feature on marijuana in the NBA and NFL. Matt Barnes, Al Harrington and Gary Paton also participate. I highly recommend (pun intended) watching it in full.