Nearly a year after rupturing his Achilles tendon, Brandon Jennings was back on the basketball court on Saturday night. This time, though, he was donning a different jersey. The six-year NBA veteran made his NBA Development League debut Saturday night on a rehab stint with the Grand Rapids Drive, the Pistons’ minor-league affiliate.
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound guard started for the Drive and played 27 minutes, tallying 11 points to go along with 12 assists and three rebounds in the 130-104 win over the Iowa Energy.
“[The Achilles] felt good,” Jennings told NBADLeague.com after the game. “I think once the ball got jumped up and I started playing I definitely wasn’t thinking about it anymore, and that was a great thing. And to go out there and play with the guys and have a good time was the most important thing.”
Jennings ruptured his left Achilles tendon in a game against the Milwaukee Bucks on January 24, 2015. Since then, he’s been on a quest to get back into the Pistons’ backcourt rotation. Once he was medically cleared to return, the Pistons’ coaching staff and Jennings mutually agreed to assign him to the Drive as part of the continued rehabilitation process. Head coach Stan Van Gundy was among the Detroit brass who made the trip to Deltaplex Arena to watch their guard in action.
(Players with four years of NBA service time or more need to accept an assignment to the NBA D-League; players in their third season or earlier can be assigned an unlimited number of times.)
“Stan just asked what I thought about the idea and if I would think about it,” Jennings said. “And I went home and thought about it and just felt like this would be a great opportunity for me just to be able to get some run in and get some play, so I definitely wanted to do it. I know most players wouldn’t do it because they probably think they’re too high-profile, but I looked at it as a great opportunity just to hoop.”
The option to use the Development League as a rehabilitation route for injured players on NBA teams isn’t a new concept; Jennings joins a list includes that Golden State Warriors center Festus Ezeli and Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe as two of the most notable names to rehab with an NBADL team (click here for more).
For Jennings, the Drive provided an opportunity to get playing time, get back in tip-top shape and, well, just play ball.
“I think most [injured] guys should do it,” Jennings said. “I mean, they’re still playing basketball. The thing about the D-League, the guys play hard every night. They compete. So that’s one of the good things.”
As for personal goals during his time in Grand Rapids, Jennings does not have any in mind. No, rather, he’s simply staying focused on the task at hand and is excited for the opportunity to continue his journey back to the Pistons.
“My main thing is to just have fun,” Jennings said. “I wasn’t trying to get crazy numbers or anything like that. I just wanted to have a great time and play.
“It felt great. It felt really great. I’m happy I got a chance to play, and now it’s time to move forward.”