Trash talk in a preseason game? Nose-to-nose confrontation, gleeful posturing, and textbook mindgames?
It might all seem to be a bit too much, given that none of these games technically matter, but to Brandon Jennings, “too much” is exactly enough when it comes to playing in New York.
“This is New York, the concrete jungle,” he said after the Knicks’ 90-88 victory over the Wizards on Monday, a game in which he got into a theatrical skirmish with Casper Ware. “When you walk into the Garden it’s not going to be sweet at all every night.”
In the third quarter, Jennings, the point guard who signed a one-year $5-million deal in what was essentially a Derrick Rose insurance policy, bumped in to Ware while defending him along the perimeter, causing a brief staredown. When both sides circled, Jennings clapped in Ware’s ear and then walked away, smiling as he pointed to his own head, mouthing, “I got him, I got him.” He then proceeded to hit a three-pointer on the next possession (he was fouled by Ware in the process, but missed the free throw).
The Garden’s response?
Hearty cheers of “Bran-don Jen-nings, Bran-don Jennings.” That’s right — while the Knicks’ star point guard is away dealing with his civil rape case, it’s Brandon Jennings who has turned into the fan favorite. Jennings scored 11 points, with three treys, three rebounds, an assist and a steal in 26 minutes.
“He’s going to be a crowd favorite,” Jeff Hornacek said. “He’s going to bring that energy, the activity, the pushing the ball . . . He’s going to do some crazy stuff sometimes, get the crowd going. We just have to let him be Brandon for a bit, if it gets too carried away then we’ll rein him back in. But he’s very good at that.
“He just loves to play basketball. He’ll go down to the neighborhood gym, neighborhood playground and just play. That’s the type of kid he is. So he’s enjoying the game. He’s having fun with it. That kind of transfers to some of the other players.”
As it turned out, it transfers to the fans, too.
With Al Iannazzone