Brandon Jennings: "If I take the qualifying offer and become an [unrestricted] free agent there is no way I am coming back."
By Marc J. Spears
SAN FRANCISCO – Point guard Brandon Jennings, a soon-to-be restricted free agent, says if he signs a one-year qualifying offer with Milwaukee this offseason, expect his days with the Bucks to be limited to one season.
"If I take the qualifying offer and become an [unrestricted] free agent there is no way I am coming back," Jennings told Yahoo! Sports on Friday after practice. "There is no way."
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! Sports. A one-year qualifying offer would be worth about $4.5 million for Jennings.
"It's not unfair to make that statement if he feels there is not a deal fair to him this summer," Bucks general manager John Hammond said of Jennings' stance. "I would be surprised if it happens. But he is operating within the [collective bargaining] rules. I'm not taken aback. It's a natural discussion to have."
Jennings plays in one of the NBA's smallest markets and is rarely seen on national television. The Los Angeles native admits that a bigger market is attractive but his preference is to play for a title contender, regardless of a city's size. Jennings noted that the Oklahoma City Thunder play in a small market, but made it to the NBA Finals last season and are frequently on national television.
The Bucks have made one playoff appearance in Jennings' previous three seasons, pushing the Atlanta Hawks to seven games in the first round in 2010 before bowing out. Milwaukee is expected to make the postseason as a seventh or eighth seed this season, but is a long shot to advance, especially if it draws the Miami Heat in the first round.
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"I just want to win," Jennings said. "The way I am playing now, I just want to go to a winning team and play like that. I don't care about being a superstar or being the main guy. I did that [the] first four years. I just want to win and be somewhere where it's all about winning.
"I'm not saying the Bucks aren't about winning. But I think [a title caliber situation] will help me, motivate my game and then you have to perform."
Jennings is in a free-agent point guard class that's led by the Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul and includes the Dallas Mavericks' Darren Collison (restricted), the Utah Jazz's Mo Williams, the Detroit Pistons' Jose Calderon, the Golden State Warriors' Jarrett Jack and the Clippers' Chauncey Billups.
Jennings is averaging 18.4 points, a career-high 6.6 assists and 1.8 steals this season. He believes he has proven he is more than a score-first point guard since the All-Star Break by averaging 17.6 points and 10.4 assists while shooting 48.8 from 3-point range. Jennings says he'll be more pass-first minded from now on.
"Everybody says I'm just a shooter, I'm just a scorer," Jennings said. "But if you go back to my high school days, I've always been a pass-first point guard. Now that we got J.J. [Redick], who's a good scorer, now I'm just looking for options all the time.
"Basically, I should have been doing what I've been doing the last three months. Is it too late? I don't know. But maybe it's a good way to start showing what else I can do."
The Bucks have Jennings' "Bird Rights" and can pay him for five seasons where another team could give him only a four-year offer. There is a risk if Jennings signs a one-year, qualifying offer while turning down lengthy deals. What if he gets hurt or underperforms? But Jennings, 23, is known for being cavalier. He was the first American to go from high school to playing professional basketball in Europe when he suited up in Italy for a season. Instead of signing with a more well-known shoe company, Jennings was Under Armour's first major basketball client.
"If you think about it I still do have power," Jennings said. "If anything is offered out there that doesn't mean I have to accept it, right? That means next season I will be playing and then I will become a free agent and can go anywhere I want to go.
"It doesn't mean if another team offers me something or the Bucks offer me something that I have to take it. I can still play it out. That's something I've been thinking about. Then I can really have the power to really make my own decision."