Brandon Jennings is approaching his new team and new role with the right attitude. He plans to show he still can run a team and he wants to be in the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year.
The Knicks’ new backup point guard knows people are questioning whether he can be the player he was before rupturing his left Achilles in January 2015. Jennings was an explosive guard and near-All-Star his first few years in the league.
Jennings, who has missed 75 games the past two seasons, signed a one-year, $5-million deal with the Knicks to back up Derrick Rose and show he still has plenty left.
“I think this is just like the perfect opportunity right now for me to revamp my whole career and show people who I really am,” Jennings said. “The perception of me is that I don’t like basketball, and I hate hearing that. So hopefully I can change everybody’s perception.
“I just want to prove that I’m back to who I am and that I can still play, I can still go and I’m healthy. I think the main thing is just showing people that I’m healthy and I’m back, and that I can still run a team.”
Jennings, who has career averages of 15.5 points and 5.9 assists, is only 26, so he could be a steal for the Knicks if he can stay healthy. That’s how the Knicks are viewing many of their offseason acquisitions.
Rose has missed 228 games in the past five seasons because of multiple injuries. Joakim Noah has sat out 86 games the past four seasons, including 53 in 2015-16. But with Rose and Jennings on one-year deals and Noah filled with fire and passion as he realizes his dream of playing in New York, the Knicks hope to catch lightning in a bottle and have a strong season. “It’s a risk-reward situation,” team president Phil Jackson said. “We think the reward is going to be greater.”
When the Knicks introduced Noah, Jennings and new starting shooting guard Courtney Lee at a news conference Friday, they talked of being hungry, having a chip on their shoulder and having something to prove. “Redemption is a powerful emotion,” Noah said. “It’s a powerful thing.”
Lee said Rose is coming in with “a lot to prove. He’s going to have a chip on his shoulder because he definitely wants to show everybody in the city of Chicago and the Bulls’ organization they’re all wrong. He’s going to be eager to come out here and compete and win big. Joakim is the same way. So I think that’s motivation for those guys.”
Jennings agrees, and he thinks once the Knicks get over “the rough edges” of learning to play with each other, they should be a “top five” team in the Eastern Conference. “There’s a lot of talent, a lot of veteran guys too on this team, a lot of guys who are hungry,” Jennings said. “D-Rose, myself, Joakim Noah, these are all guys, we’re all hungry. At this point, I think our main goal is just to make this work, finally make this work and give the city what they’ve been waiting for.”
Notes & quotes: The Knicks officially signed Lithuanian forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas, giving them 12 players with guaranteed contracts.