By Chris Broussard
ESPN The Magazine
Archive Brandon Jennings, the Milwaukee Bucks' leading scorer, told ESPN.com Thursday he will strongly consider leaving Milwaukee for one of the league's larger markets once his rookie contract ends.
"I am going to keep my options open, knowing that the time is coming up,'' Jennings said in an email interview. "I'm doing my homework on big market teams.''
Jennings, 22, is in his third NBA season and will be eligible to sign a long-term contract extension with Milwaukee this summer. While he has not established himself as an All-Star or maximum-salaried player, he's led the Bucks in scoring the past two seasons and currently has them in playoff contention despite the loss of center Andrew Bogut to injury.
Jennings' exciting style of play has invigorated the Bucks' fan base and Milwaukee's management views him as a building block. But the point guard is not ready to commit to the franchise long-term.
"I'm not saying I won't (sign an extension with the Bucks) and I'm not saying I will,'' he said. "I'm just keeping my options open.''
Jennings' desire to play in a more prestigious market follows the league trend that began when LeBron James and Chris Bosh left Cleveland and Toronto, respectively, for Miami in 2010. Since then, Carmelo Anthony has forced a trade from Denver to New York, Chris Paul has forced a trade from New Orleans to Los Angeles, and Orlando's Dwight Howard has requested that the Magic trade him to the New Jersey Nets, who are moving to Brooklyn next season.
While Jennings is not in the class of those players, he said their decisions have influenced him.
"When you start seeing other players like Dwight Howard or CP3, you start thinking,'' said Jennings, who is averaging 18.9 points and 5.3 assists for the Bucks.
Jennings, a native of Los Angeles, said he has no problem with the Bucks organization and that he is thankful for being drafted by Milwaukee with the 10th pick in 2009. While other clubs had soured on Jennings, who struggled while playing one season in Italy directly out of high school, the Bucks made him a lottery pick.
"It has nothing to do with the city of Milwaukee or anything like that because that's where I started my career,'' Jennings said. "They've been nothing but good to me. (Coach) Scott Skiles and (general manager) John Hammond have been good to me. It's just that I'm understanding the business of basketball now.''
While Jennings did not address specific issues about the Bucks' team and organization, sources close to the situation said he is frustrated with the direction of the franchise. Bogut, the Bucks' second-best player, has been injury prone, missing 30 games in Jennings' first two seasons. The center has played only 12 games this season and is currently sidelined by an ankle injury that could cost him the rest of the season.
Stephen Jackson, another one of the Bucks' top players, wants out of Milwaukee unless the club gives him a contract extension, according to sources, and the rest of the Bucks' roster is made up of journeymen.
Despite leading Milwaukee to victories over Miami (twice) and the Los Angeles Lakers, Jennings did not make the Eastern Conference All-Star team. Despite his reservations about staying in Milwaukee for the long haul, Jennings insisted that his play and effort will not be adversely affected.
"I'm going to keep playing hard every night for the Bucks as long as I'm there,'' Jennings said. "I'm not promising that's where my future will be. I will make sure me and (agent Bill Duffy) look at all the best options.''