Point guard Brandon Jennings was passed on by the Knicks in the 2009 NBA Draft (in favor of Jordan Hill) but he wasn’t going to pass on a chance to play for them.
Jennings, who has played for the Bucks, Pistons and Magic, signed a one-year, $5 million deal. Feeling healthy after missing long stretches of the past two seasons with a ruptured Achilles, the high-scoring Jennings will lead the second unit and is excited about finally playing for the Knicks.
Q: You’ve said you feel like a rookie again, what did you mean?
Jennings: “I feel like it’s my first year again. More just like exciting, new situation, I have never been in a big market like this before so a lot is different. You got to embrace it, the New York sports town and things like that. But still in the back of your head you know there’s a lot of pressure. You just see the support from the fans and they expect a lot out of you.
Q: Did you need a change?
Jennings: “Yeah. Yeah. I wasn’t expecting a change like this, to be here in New York. This is one of the best experiences so far. Playing in New York, you definitely have to bring your A game and just play hard.”
Q: What other teams were interested in you?
Jennings: “Actually I didn’t get any offers from any other team but New York. A lot was because of my Achilles, nobody knew how healthy I was and things like that. I definitely put in the time this summer, lost a lot of weight. I made sure I was ready. When Phil (Jackson) called, I was like ‘Yo, I’m coming.’ It was a no-brainer . . . Shoot, I would have come here for a million. It didn’t matter. I just wanted to be in an NBA uniform and be somewhere where I had a chance to win, and New York City — why not?”
Q: Do you feel like you have something to prove?
Jennings: “I definitely do. It was 29 teams that didn’t want me so I definitely have a chip on my shoulder, and I definitely want to prove to everybody that I’m back and I’m healthy and I’m just a team player.”
Q: Derrick Rose was already on the roster. Was it hard for you to accept a reserve role?
Jennings: “I definitely accepted that, playing behind a guy like Derrick Rose. Going to another team, coming off the bench probably not. But a guy like Derrick Rose, who’s been an MVP, who’s proven himself, who’s been to the Eastern Conference Finals — I can learn a lot from him. I definitely accepted that role.”
Q: What are you hoping for this season?
Jennings: “Just having fun again. I’ve never played with All-Stars like Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. I told Melo I’ve never played with a guy who can go get 30 a night. I’m definitely excited about that. Now that I know I have dogs behind me that’s going to ride with me, I can just be myself.”
Q: Have you ever played with someone like Kristaps Porzingis?
Jennings: “No. We definitely have a feel already. Our feel is good, our chemistry is good. I just want to get him easy shots and help him be an All-Star.”
Q. You had 21 assists in a game in 2015. Do you think about what you can do with this team?
Jennings: “Yeah, I definitely do. I didn’t shoot the ball well at all this preseason but I think just getting out there, having fun again, showing energy, playing hard, being more emotional out there on the court, just bringing something different. The thing I was told about being a Knick was if you play with passion and play hard every night you’ll be loved. So that’s all I want to do: just play hard.”