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Brandon Jennings wants big money, Bucks to improve to keep him this summer

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Brandon Jennings has never lacked for self-confidence.

Jennings is a restricted free agent next summer — meaning the Milwaukee Bucks have the power because they can match any offer the young point guard gets — but he was the one trying to play hardball Friday.

Jennings said that this summer he not only wants a big contract but also added the Bucks need to improve the roster and make it a contender, in speaking to Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

Jennings considers Milwaukee a “great sports town” and has enjoyed his time there, but in order to keep him long term, Jennings said the Bucks’ offer must be lucrative and there needs to be changes in the roster and the organization to make it championship caliber.

He turned down a four-year, $40 million deal prior to this season, a source told Yahoo!

Jennings might make a little more than that offer this summer — he brought in a new agent to see that he does — but not that much. The reason is he’s not THAT good. Which is the same reason he’s not been an All-Star — sorry Brandon, it’s not the market, it’s your play.

Jennings scores 18.4 points a game this year but is shooting just 40.3 percent. He is quick and can get to the rim, but finishes just 52.5 percent of his shots when he gets there (via Hoopdata). Jennings gets most of his shots (36.8 percent of his attempts) as the ball handler on pick-and-rolls and he scores a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession that way shooting 40.7 percent (from Synergy Sports). He’s developed a good three-point shot and can punish teams that go under the pick, but when he has to attack he doesn’t finish (he shoots just 46.3 percent inside nine feet). Jennings is also not a strong spot up shooter (hitting 36.7 percent of his shots) and struggles in half court isolation sets (shooting 26.2 percent).

Jennings is good; he’s a quality starting point guard. But he’s a couple steps below the league’s elite point guards and that’s not because he plays in Milwaukee.

If the Bucks want to keep him — and by all accounts they do, but both Mona Ellis and J.J. Redick are free agents this summer, too — they can match any offer he gets this summer. Jennings’ only real leverage is the threat he would sign a one-year qualifying offer with the Bucks, for about $4.5 million, play out next season then become an unrestricted free agent. That is what he was talking about with Spears, maybe taking that offer to give him a path out of Milwaukee.

But that leaves a lot of money on the table and is a huge risk — this summer Jennings is going to get offers in the $10 million to $12 million a year range for four years. That’s a lot of money to leave on the table to take a one-year deal. One freak injury could take all that money away. This is Jennings first contract after his rookie deal, his first big kick at the can, and that is one good players usually sign to get the big paydays and money in the bank. Then with their next deal they think about moving on.

But Jennings is talking big. He’s never lacked for self confidence.

NBA: Kenneth Faried got away with foul on decisive basket in Nuggets’ win over Bulls

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The Bulls’ biggest loss Friday was Jimmy Butler to injury. His absence certainly contributed to a loss to the Timberwolves the following night.

But Chicago also lost to the Nuggets on Friday, and perhaps that wouldn’t have happened if the game were called correctly down the stretch.

With Denver up two points and 21.1 seconds remaining, Kenneth Faried offensively rebounded a free throw and scored. The Bulls then intentionally fouled down the stretch, and Faried and Danilo Gallinari added a few free throws in the Nuggets’ 115-110 win.

One problem: Faried should’ve been called for offensively fouling Taj Gibson on the key putback, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report:

Faried (DEN) extends his arm into Gibson (CHI) and dislodges him, affecting his ability to retrieve the rebound.

This was a huge swing. Instead of Taj Gibson – a 69% career free-throw shooter – going to the line for two attempts with Chicago down two points, Faried put the Nuggets up four. Even if Gibson split at the line, the Bulls would have been in significantly better shape.

As usual, we can’t know what would’ve happened if this call were made correctly. But it significantly set back Chicago.

NBA considering if jump-on-back foul should be flagrant foul

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The video above is an intentional foul — Chris Paul jumped on the back of Dwight Howard. The same thing has happened to Andre Drummond.

Is it a flagrant foul?

The Boston Celtics tweeted this out on Sunday.

The NBA was quick to let people know that this is just something under consideration — there has been no change in the rules. This may well be where the league is headed, but it’s not there yet.

The NBA defines a flagrant foul as “unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent.” To me, leaping on a player’s back like that qualifies. (A flagrant two foul is “unnecessary and excessive contact” and leads to an ejection; this is not that.)

Jared Dudley — one of the more vocal players on union issues — added a good point.

Consider this part of the coming changes on the intentional fouling rules period. But this one tweak could come much faster.

NBA: Foul on Cavaliers that sparked Celtics’ comeback called in error

Cleveland Cavaliers' J.R. Smith makes a move on Boston Celtics' Evan Turner (11) during the third quarter of a NBA basketball game in Boston Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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The Cavaliers were in great shape against the Celtics on Friday, leading by four points with seven seconds left.

Then, it all went so wrong for Cleveland.

J.R. Smith was called for fouling Evan Turner on a made layup, cutting the margin to two points. Turner missed the free throw, but the ball went out of bounds off the Cavs. Then, Avery Bradley made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Boston the win.

Rewind, though, and an incorrect call drove the sequence, according to the NBA.

Smith shouldn’t have been called for fouling Turner, per the Last Two Minute Report:

Smith (CLE) makes incidental contact with Turner’s (BOS) body as he attempts the layup.

If this were officiated correctly, the Cavs would’ve had the ball and a two-point lead with 5.9 seconds left. That’s not a lock to win – they’d still have to inbound the ball and make their free throws – but it’s close.

Cleveland is definitely entitled to feel the refs wronged them out of a victory.

Report: Kevin Durant has “done his due diligence on the Bay Area”

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Kevin Durant has not made up his mind about what he will do as a free agent this summer. Until his playoff run ends, whenever that may be for the Thunder, his focus will be on bringing a title to Oklahoma City.

But even he admits he can’t help but think about free agency a little.

The buzz around the league is Golden State is at the front of the line if Durant decides to leave OKC, and he has done some research, reports Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

The Warriors play in front of an intimidating Oracle Arena crowd and are expected to debut a new San Francisco arena in 2019. Durant has quietly done his due diligence on the Bay Area, too, sources told Yahoo Sports.

His people — specifically agent Rich Kleiman and personal manager Charlie Bell — would be stupid not to have done some research on not only Golden State but on every other team he might consider: Houston, Miami, Washington, both teams in Los Angeles, the Knicks, and on down the line. Golden State, playing with Stephen Curry, certainly would have its attractions.

I’m still in the camp that Durant signs a 1+1 deal to stay in Oklahoma City (meaning he can opt out after one more season, in 2017), and it’s all about the cash. While he could get 30 percent of a $90 million cap this summer (about $27 million a season to start), with one more year of service in 2017 Durant could get 35 percent of $108 million ($37.8 million to start). That’s a lot of cash. Plus he gets one more chance at a ring with Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, who both are 2017 free agents.

But you can be sure whatever Durant decides, it will be well researched and thought out. And he’s not going to announce it in a live special on ESPN.