Here's looking at you, Brandon Jennings. (AP/Nam Y. Huh)
Taking over an NBA team in the middle of the season isn't an easy job, but Jim Boylan's making it look that way, posting two wins in two tries since taking over for Scott Skiles after he and the Milwaukee Bucks elected to "part ways" on Monday. It hasn't been perfect, as Bucks blog Brew Hoop has noted, but the Bucks have held both the Phoenix Suns and Chicago Bulls to 41 percent shooting while kickstarting their own offense to a 110.6-points-per-100-possessions clip, leaps and bounds better than their sixth-worst-in-the-league season average.
The biggest reason for that offensive jolt? A pair of stellar performances by point guard Brandon Jennings, who popped for 29 points and nine assists to beat the Suns on Tuesday and followed that up with a season-high 35 points, six rebounds and six assists to get the W over the division-rival Bulls. The fourth-year point guard seems to have worked himself into a nice little rhythm, and while he's not throwing shade at his former coach, he is crediting his new one with bolstering his confidence, according to CSNChicago.com's Aggrey Sam:
“At first, it was tough for me, just the fact that Skiles was my coach my first four years in the league,” he said. “Of course, Boylan’s been here for the four years, too. But I know the first night, when we first had him, it was a little different looking on the sideline and [Skiles] wasn’t there. But Coach Boylan, he’s been here for four years, we’ve worked together in the summertime, so he knows my game and I know what to expect from him.
Continued Jennings: “I felt like I can do what I want. I’ve got my swagger now. I can clown around, dance, do what I want. I might end up changing my hair back again. I think just overall, the confidence that the team has. Everybody’s playing with confidence. Guys are just playing free. We’re not really thinking right now; we’re just hooping.”
Totally. If there's one man who screams swag, it's this one.
Hit the jump for full highlights of Jennings using his rediscovered swagger to punish Chicago on Wednesday.
After the Bucks stumbled in the early going, allowing the Bulls to race out of the gate and build a 15-point lead after eight minutes, Jennings got it going in the second quarter, making three of his six shots and dishing a couple of dimes; his 10 points, combined with Chicago cooling off a bit, enabled the Bucks to head into halftime down only seven. Come the third quarter, though, Jennings found that rhythm, hitting five straight shots, including four 3-pointers, to score 14 points in just over four minutes as part of a 16-4 mid-quarter run that turned the game around; Chicago would draw within one by the end of the third, but they'd never lead again, thanks to Jennings' 20-point third-quarter explosion.
Jennings' comments about "playing free" and "not really thinking right now" track with what BDL Editor Kelly Dwyer this morning called an "uncomplicated" and perhaps structureless offense under Boylan on Wednesday, as it was against the Suns on Tuesday — a lot of offense created off isolations, late-in-the-clock spot-ups and transition, with a little bit of high screen-and-roll mixed in. And that's fine when Jennings is making his shots, as he has in Boylan's two wins; he's shot 21 for 39 (53.8 percent) from the floor, 10 for 17 (58.8 percent) from 3-point range and 12 for 13 (92.3 percent) from the foul line.
Remembering that Jennings had posted 40/34.5/82.9 shooting splits under Skiles this season and owns a 39.5/34.8/81.5 line for his career, it'd be wise to expect the sprightly point guard's shooting to taper off a bit, but for now, Jennings is flying high — as he showed opposite number Nate Robinson on Wednesday night, according to Jay Cohen of the Associated Press:
Brandon Jennings stretched out his arms and held his hands just over the ground as he glided toward center court, celebrating another big 3-pointer with one of Nate Robinson's usual moves.
Yup, Jennings was listening to Robinson's trash talk, and he had the perfect response.
Exactly — a little bit of dancing emboldened by his new coach, eminent ambassador of swag Jim Boylan. Duh.