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Maurice Cheeks: Brandon Jennings doesn’t know how to play point guard yet

Nov 30, 2013, 11:00 AM EDT

Maurice Cheeks, Brandon Jennings

Flash back to the Pistons’ news conference to introduce Brandon Jennings. Joe Dumars in his opening statement, as transcribed by Matt Watson of Detroit Bad Boys:

We also like the fact that he has five years of pro experience, one in Italy and four in Milwaukee. And we thought that he could step right in, hit the ground running and fit with the rest of our guys.

If Jennings could deliver on that, that would be fantastic for the Pistons.

They’re desperately trying to snap a four-season playoff drought, so they needed a point guard who didn’t require too much on-the-job learning. And they’d already assembled an unconventional frontcourt featuring Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, so they need a point guard who could play with that trio.

Their previous point guard, Brandon Knight, made too many youthful mistakes, and his inability to operate in tight spaces made him a poor fit with the jumbo frontline. Jennings would help on both fronts.

Or so it seemed.

Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks, a former All-Star point guard, is not nearly as praising of Jennings 16 games into the season. Shawn Windsor of the Detroit Free Press:

Cheeks knew where everyone on the floor was supposed to be — or supposed to be going. When they weren’t, he told them. Jennings is trying to learn that now, after a life of seeking out space to shoot.

“It takes a certain amount of time for a guy to do that if that if they haven’t been doing it that way their whole career,” Cheeks said. “I don’t think it’s just an overnight thing, I think Brandon is learning a little of that.”

“It’s very important to figure out where a (teammate) should be and direct him where to go,” Cheeks said. “It’s not an overnight thing where you learn how to play with Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Josh Smith.”

Cheeks is certainly entitled to a different opinion than Dumars, and that might be all that’s happening here. But it also seems like the Pistons are talking out of both sides of their mouth. Make big promises, and then beg for more time when they don’t come to fruition.

For what it’s worth, Cheeks’ assessment looks much more accurate than Dumars’. Not only does the Pistons’ offensive rating fall from when Jennings is on the bench (106.3) to when he’s on the court (100.0), it falls even further when he plays with Smith, Monroe and Drummond (97.3).

Jennings hasn’t shown the polish of a five-year pro, and fit well with this team.

Perhaps Cheeks can use his experience at the position to teach Jennings to be a better point guard. But even though Jennings doesn’t seem old at just 24, not many players improve greatly at this stage of their career. Another mentor for Jennings – Chauncey Billups, a rare exception to the rule for blooming late at point guard – is on the Pistons’ bench.

Even if Cheeks and Billups can eventually get Jennings on track, the Pistons have a more pressing concern – how to win without the point guard they thought they were getting, the one who plays like a seasoned pro and fits well with Smith, Monroe and Drummond.

  1. homergreenz - Nov 30, 2013 at 12:03 PM

    “It takes a certain amount of time for a guy to do that if that if they haven’t been doing it that way their whole career,”

    re: court vision, “point guard instincts”

    I think you’re either born with it or you’re not. Jennings was born a chucker.

    • pbtunpaidwriter - Nov 30, 2013 at 4:39 PM

      Time to hire George Karl, Hollins, Carlesimo, etc. Cheeks is not a head coach at this level.

      • mogogo1 - Dec 1, 2013 at 1:54 AM

        The comedy is that they hired Phil Jackson to consult on the coaching search. There’s stories about Marlon Brando that he’d dog it on the set just to see what the director would do. If the guy called him on it, Brando would respect that and put in a good performance; but otherwise he’d dog it for the entire production and just collect his check. I’m imagining Phil having a more inspired choice but just keeping it to himself when the Pistons actually took his Mo Cheeks recommendation.

      • mbauer550 - Dec 1, 2013 at 8:17 PM

        Wow, all of them? Big Bench

  2. thomaskouns - Nov 30, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    I’m not sure he knew how to play shooting guard last year either judging by his shot selection, shooting % and defense.

  3. metrocritical - Nov 30, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    That’s quite a formula we have working here with the Pistons: A clueless owner, a GM that time has proven is more lucky than good and who’s luck has run out and a head coach who has struggled mightily to attain mediocrity at previous stops. This off season, in spite of countless past missteps, Dumars was afforded the opportunity to hire another head coach and spend big money, and, once again, appears to have succeeded like Charlie Brown searching for a Christmas tree and Jack squandering the family cow for a handful of beans. The result? A misfit roster without chemistry, coherency or cohesion coached by a guy who doesn’t understand a thing about game planning, in game adjustments, rotations and personality management. Other than that, the Piston’s future looks rosy.

    • pbtunpaidwriter - Nov 30, 2013 at 4:43 PM

      Dumars chose Darko over Melo, Bosh and Wade. Imagine how many more championships they would have won with any of those 3.

      That mistake in 2003 will impact the Pistons legacy forever.

      • jaerba - Nov 30, 2013 at 9:53 PM

        Normally not a fan of these counterfactuals, but I feel pretty confident in saying the Pistons would’ve had at least 1 extra championship if they’d drafted Wade.

        Essentially because the Heat wouldn’t have won, and the Pistons would’ve easily taken the Mavs that year.

      • rpena62 - Dec 1, 2013 at 10:05 PM

        But if they chose Melo they don’t trade for B Wallace, thus not even one championship. Wallace brought them a Defensive presence that only a handful of players in the history of the NBA had.

  4. sportsfan18 - Nov 30, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    Mo would be better off to take Jennings jersey and put it on and go out there himself.

    By the time Jennings learns how to really play point guard, to really play team basketball Mo will long have been retired.

    Jennings is purely a gunner. A volume scorer. His career shooting percentage is BELOW 40%.

    He’s what too many players are today. AAU junk, look at me, I’m gonna shoot, score and make the highlight film.

    Team basketball? Moving the ball? Knowing where a teammate should be? He doesn’t know what he should be doing let alone what his teammates should be doing or where they should be on the court.

    In fairness to him, he’s far from alone in this.

    Anyone remember the name Shabazz Muhammad from UCLA? He’s on the Timberwolves now.

    He’s played a whole 24 min’s and has made 1 FG out of 9 attempts so far this season.

    This is the guy who was mad and didn’t celebrate on the court with his teammates when a teammate made the last shot to win the game. He was upset that he didn’t get to take that last shot.

    Shabazz had all of 27 assists in 32 games last yr for UCLA.

    He was talked about being a first round pick and he was. He couldn’t play then and he can’t play now.

    If he ever gets playing time, I think he’ll be just like Jennings. No D, just shoot and shoot poorly.

  5. roanboon - Nov 30, 2013 at 3:39 PM

    But does he sell jerseys for the team’s owner?

  6. peddealer - Nov 30, 2013 at 4:16 PM

    Dan you are wrong about late blooming PGs. Poor writing…

    Do I really need to give examples?

  7. edwardemanuelson - Nov 30, 2013 at 4:31 PM

    They sure were quick to pay him a lot of money, though. Amazing.

    • cflip376 - Nov 30, 2013 at 4:54 PM

      They didn’t even have to pay him that much either, he was getting no interest this past summer.

  8. lakerade - Nov 30, 2013 at 5:14 PM

    Tough to have the coach call him out like that, but he is not making the bigs on DET better, and with the bigs they have Jennings should be racking up assists. Instead he’s just gunning, wasting the advantage his team begins most games with.

  9. weaselpuppy - Nov 30, 2013 at 7:03 PM

    Perfect match, as Cheeks is a terrible coach.

    8 point lead at home vs a Lakerteam full of misfits and scrubs with 7 minutes left. Andre Drummond has played all of 16 minutes in the game, piling up 13 points, 11 boards a block and a steal and is miraculously 3 out of 3 from the line….and you give up a 10-0 run…including two called timeouts where you STILL don’t put Drummond in at any time, even though you are getting torn up on the boards and can’t shut down Jordan Farmar and whatever other scrub is torching you…Drummond had 4 fouls, but you leave your defensive force on the bench? The guy that grabs 5 offensive boards a game?

    horrible, terrible….Mo is an idiot. That was a win, just like the game in LA was and they blew both. If they don’t right the ship soon, they are heading back to the lottery, which would be awesome if Joe D hadn’t traded away their 1st rounder for the honor of dumping Ben Gordon…which wasn’t necessary…they could have amnestied Gordon. They could have amnestied Charlie V and let Will Bynum walk.


  10. detlefschrempfriedrice - Dec 1, 2013 at 12:11 AM

    new commenter, same story…we’ve known BJennings can’t play point..

  11. mbauer550 - Dec 1, 2013 at 8:22 PM

    Talking out of both sides of their mouth?

    Why? Cheeks and Duamrs have different opinions and Cheeks has had the preseason and 16 games to form an opinion. The Bucks, Jennings previous spot, did not have the talent/depth that the Pistons currently have and it is a challenge for Jennings to take control of the team and direct them all. The Pistons are not yet cohesive as they have many new players in the starting rotation.

    Why is this situation so challenging to write about and why must you try and make it some sort of conspiracy?

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