Will Brandon Jennings regret his choice to join Roma? “Hey, he’s only played one game with his team, what are you saying?” could be the answer from any of Oak Hill Academy product’s fans. But the situation isn’t smiling so much on B.J. now. Roma is an open building site, and the risky debut match against Caserta (home victory, 83-81 in overtime) has explained why Lottomatica isn’t yet ready to be in the fight nor to be led by Jennings.
After the arrival of Datome, coach Jasmin Repesa has 12 “real”players, seven of them in the backcourt rotation. Considering Becirovic the main acquisition from the market, de la Fuente as the only pure small forward in the roster, and Allan Ray a guy whose contract costs nearly $700,000, one need not be a genius to understand that there aren’t a lot of minutes for B.J; this is amplied because Ibby Jaaber is a skilled defender, a concept that the American boy seems far from assimilating.
So how could Jennings see his minutes on the floor increase? First thing: He must get better in the halfcourt game. Second, he must become more reliable and less spectacular in handling the ball. Third, must become more unselfish. At the moment, Becirovic is “the” man on Roma, the top point guard, and it would not be strange to see stat lines like his against Caserta (14-of-14 on free throws, 10 fouls received, 7 assists) often repeated during the season: He is the mind of Lottomatica, and has the ball in his hands for at least 12 seconds on every play. In learning from Becirovic, Jennings could improve as a player, and that’s what Repesa wants, because Becirovic and Jennings on the floor together are more dangerous than Becirovic and Jaaber. And we are curious to see a backcourt trio of Jennings, Becirovic and Ray.
Many hypothetical solutions and deep rotations are in play; surely this sort of platoon system doesn’t help B.J., who has to play almost 25 minutes a game to develop his talent and be more confident in a league that is not so easy to face, especially for a 18-year-old. Jennings has one year (plus the Euroleague competition) to keep his promises and take over the team. But until something changes, Roma is property of Becirovic.
This may be a sudden fall back to Earth for a guy predicted as a top-seven pick in the 2009 NBA draft, but no doubt this experience will strengthen him. Under one condition: Jennings must be patient, and his time will come.
And for those saying “Hey, he played only one game with his team, don’t be so critical,” you’re right, but look at his line in the boxscore: 10 shots in 21 minutes? Calm down, Brandon!
written by Francesco Cappelletti