SEEMAN: Open letter to Brandon Jennings

To Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings:

First, I want to tell you how much I enjoy watching you play. The confidence and swagger you bring to the floor every night is entertaining for Bucks fans and sickening for opponents. That’s just the kind of presence I want on my team.

Second, I want to wish you a belated happy birthday. You turned 21 last Thursday, a milestone many American youths agonizingly wait for, much the way LeBron waited in Cleveland for his chance to jump ship.

Like any of the rest of us on our 21st birthdays, you took your freshly-minted driver’s license and partied. There’s nothing wrong with that, either. Remember, I’m the guy who recently developed the somewhat depressing habit of hitting a bar bright and early on Saturday mornings.

But unlike the rest of us during that first magical, hazy weekend of legal alcohol consumption, you’re under the constant scrutiny of the public eye.

Even though nothing pernicious happened at your big birthday party in Los Angeles over the weekend, you don’t need any kind of college education to know how the general public might perceive such an event. Those people at TMZ have to make a living, too.

Another thing you need to keep in mind as you start your first NBA season as a 21-year-old: This franchise is depending on you. I hate to put that on your shoulders, but that’s just the way it is.

The last time there was an exciting professional basketball team around these parts, Ray Allen was a spry 26-year-old sharpshooter and Allen Iverson was still the Answer to a question that wasn’t “What former beleaguered NBA point guard can’t find a team anywhere in the western hemisphere?”

There was a time not long ago when I was resigned to the fact that the Bucks were going to run out of money and go the way of the Charlotte Hornets and Vancouver Grizzlies. There wasn’t a reason to spend money on a Bucks ticket, so people didn’t, which has put the team in a financial hole out of which it’s still trying to dig.

This new Bucks team you lead, on the other hand, is certainly worth the price of admission. Even the mascot Bango has earned some recognition for his high-flying antics.

The attitude shift started with your 55-point game against Golden State, which was the highest scoring night for anyone in the league last year. John Salmons came in and helped propel the team up the Eastern Conference standings, and a near-upset of the Atlanta Hawks in the playoffs was all the Kool-Aid people needed to take to the streets and start shouting “fear the deer.”

Like anywhere else, Milwaukee likes cheering for winning teams, and the only way this success will continue is if you keep your focus on basketball. There are cautionary tales to be read everywhere about guys who squandered opportunities for greatness, and Bucks fans don’t want you to wind up like Iverson, Vin Baker or Antoine Walker.

I have the utmost confidence that you’ll stay focused on basketball and make Milwaukee a hoops hotbed once again. If you had gone to the University of Arizona instead of Italy after high school, I might be a little more concerned, but it seems to me that your year overseas has equipped you with the maturity needed to stay on the straight-and-narrow.

Hopefully, this hasn’t sounded too much like a lecture or a sermon, and I’m not saying that you can’t go out and enjoy yourself every once in a while. Think of it more as a friendly reminder that everyone, especially in Milwaukee, is watching you and analyzing your actions. It’s not because they’re waiting for you to falter. It’s because they want you to succeed and bring the Bucks back to prominence.


Tim Seeman