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Jennings shines after signing 10-day deal

MEMPHIS — Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings, who signed a 10-day contract with the team on Sunday, nearly recorded a triple-double in his first NBA game in almost a year during Monday’s 121-103 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Jennings, who started the season playing for Shanxi Zhongyu in the Chinese CBA, scored 16 points, notched 12 assists and grabbed eight rebounds in 24 minutes.

“It’s just all the hard work I was putting in in China,” Jennings said. “People don’t understand, I was still hurt with my Achilles injury, so now I’m finally healthy. I was able to really just revamp my whole self, just focus on basketball and be able to just work out. So when I was in China, I just felt like I was at Oak Hill [Academy] again, just working on my game and trying to get to that level again.”

Jennings, an eight-year NBA veteran, started his career in Milwaukee after being selected by the Bucks in the first round of the 2009 draft. He has played for five different NBA teams and last played in the NBA with the Washington Wizards on May 15, 2017 — a Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“I don’t think it’s a question whether he can play in the NBA,” Bucks big man John Henson said. “Obviously, it’s about the right situation. Especially this summer, it was a rough summer for free agents. But he can clearly play, so I’m excited to have him. On a 10-day, for a guy like that to have that type of talent, it’s rare.”

Henson is the only remaining member of the Bucks who was still in Milwaukee when Jennings was on the team. The veteran point guard’s performance gave a big lift to a Bucks group that’s hanging onto the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

“It’s crazy,” Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “Brandon Jennings is an NBA player. It doesn’t surprise me what he did tonight and hopefully he can help us moving forward.”

Jennings signed with the Wisconsin Herd, the Bucks’ G League affiliate, on Feb. 13. His triumphant return helped push the Grizzlies’ losing streak to 18 straight games. The 28-year-old credited his time with China with helping him get his life back in order on and off the floor.

“I just was able to find myself again mentally,” Jennings said. “I was really mentally messed up in the head because of my, so called, career-ending injury. I always wanted to bounce back from that … but I just did a lot of manifest. I manifest a lot about positivity. So I tried to get a lot of negative thoughts and things out of my head and it really helped me. It really helped me off the court being a better father too.”

The win marked the first time the Bucks have won in Memphis since 2009.

“We wanted more,” Bucks interim head coach Joe Prunty deadpanned about Jennings’ performance. “No, he was very good tonight. Obviously the 12 assists were great. We had 33 as a team. Like the ball movement, like the way as a group we shared it and pushed the ball. But overall a really positive night from him, a lot of things that were really good.”

For Jennings, he was just happy to be back on an NBA court and taking pride in showing the world he can play at a high level again.

“I was nervous,” he admitted. “I felt like it was my first rookie game again, just putting on that jersey was a blessing. I’m just very grateful.”

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