Three games into preseason and New York Knicks fans were all chanting Brandon Jennings. It took three games for the Knicks to accept Jennings as one of their own.
Last year, the Knicks were unable to find a point guard they liked. That played a part in having a less than memorable 30-52 record and missing the playoffs for the third straight year. With a revamped roster this year, the Knicks can contend for the playoffs this upcoming season and Jennings may play a key part.
The biggest acquisition this summer was trading for Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose. That solved the Knicks point guard problem but they didn’t stop there. The Knicks capped off a great summer by signing Jennings to a one-year/$5 million contract.
Jennings’ contract is a steal for a player of his talent. A torn Achilles shortened his season with the Detroit Pistons last year and left many people wondering if he would ever play the same again. Phil Jackson and the Knicks gambled on Jennings and based on the crowd’s reaction in Madison Square Garden, it sounds like the right move so far.
“Him being on the market at that point, I felt we got a steal,’’ Carmelo Anthony said. “A guy who was a starting point guard before. A guy who knew how to run a team and play at a fast pace. For us to get him as a backup, I thought we got a steal with that.’’
Anthony makes a great point about Jennings’ former role. He was a starting point guard and is now going to be a backup point guard for the Knicks. Just a year ago, the Knicks couldn’t find a top-tier point guard and now they have two on the roster.
“He’s going to be a crowd favorite,’’ Jeff Hornacek said. “He’s going to do some crazy stuff sometimes to get the crowd going. You just to have let him be Brandon for a bit. If it gets too carried away, we’ll rein him in. But he’s very good at that. When you tell Brandon to settle it down, he’ll do that.”
Jennings was a crowd favorite on Monday night when the Knicks hosted the Washington Wizards. During a two-minute stretch, Jennings bumped Wizards’ guard Casper Ware, picked up a technical foul, and on the next offensive possession, made a three-pointer after getting fouled. Madison Square Garden rewarded Jennings’ effort by chanting his name.
“That was pretty awesome,’’ Jennings said about the chant. “It’s all mental. This game is mental. I got to find something to enlighten the team. We were kind of sluggish on both ends. It got everyone fired up.’’
With Jennings, the Knicks have a player that can get the team going with his hustle and eagerness to win. That may also lead to a few technical fouls but it will give the Knicks a personality. They will be the more aggressive team most nights and Phil Jackson has to feel good about that.
“Before he got hurt, that was the Brandon Jennings we saw,’’ Anthony said. “The injuries hindered him. You can tell he’s in a different place physically.”