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In Sports Commentary

The Milwaukee Bucks should lock up Brandon Jennings. (PHOTO: David Bernacchi)

There is more to locking up Jennings than just the numbers


Some people say statistics are the things that make the sports world go round. You can argue and debate and find statistics to support almost any point of view.

But nothing beats a feel for the game, a sense of athletics and of what it takes to play a game, whatever game you are talking about.

That's why I read with such interest the column that my colleague Jim Owczarski wrote a few days ago on Brandon Jennings. Owczarski is rapidly developing a reputation and I could make a pretty good case that he is now one of the top two or three sportswriters in this market.

So when he talks, I listen.

His column addressed the issue of whether the Milwaukee Bucks should re-sign Jennings, who is going to become a free agent; to the kind of long-term, big money deal he is going to command.

Owczarski had a lot of statistics and a lot of comparison research to come to the conclusion that Jennings should be re-signed by the Bucks.

I agree, but for reasons that don't have anything to do with statistics.

At various points during the life of a franchise, a team has to send a message to its fans that is subtler than an ad, or a press release or a news conference.

Now is that time for the Bucks, who are planning a return to the playoffs and a resulting excitement of its fan base.

They need to send a message that says, "We are going to keep our good players. We are not going to be a seller forever. We think this guy is important to our future, and we are making an investment in him."

Sure it's a gamble, just as every personnel decision is a gamble.

But at some point a team has to send a message that the constant rebuilding that seems to afflict also-rans, is over. Keeping good players is a sign that a team is serious, very serious, about moving forward.

I didn't think the Brewers should have sent Zack Greinke packing during this past baseball season. It just felt like giving up, and who knows what might have happened if they kept him.

The Bucks enter this season with a whole locker room full of issues. They need a new arena. Their owner is getting older and may be selling in the near future. Their coach and general manager are all in the final year of their contracts.

The risk here, of course, is that you make a bad decision and get saddled with a big contract and a player who isn't even close to being worth the money; a player who gets his big dollars and then just doesn't work out anymore. It's a feared state of affairs.

But running a sports team is not a place for chickens. You must have convictions and you must have the courage of your convictions.

Nobody is right all the time. But the story of professional sports makes it clear that courage plays a big part in the success of a team. And fans recognize that courage. They understand when their team sends a message.

And it's time for the Bucks to use the signing of Jennings to send one to their fans.


Talkbacks

LG | Oct. 16, 2012 at 9:13 p.m. (report)

It is understandable that the Milwaukee Bucks franchise might be apprehensive to extend players to long term deals given some of the circumstances of previous player contracts. What makes Brandon Jennings worth the long term consideration is that he wants to stay in Milwaukee and seems to have a great deal of upside for a franchise looking to build some momentum for the future.

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