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Maurice Cheeks: Brandon Jennings hasn’t learned how to play point guard

Shawn Windsor of the Detroit Free Press:

Cheeks knew where everyone on the floor was supposed to be — or supposed to be going. When they weren’t, he told them. Jennings is trying to learn that now, after a life of seeking out space to shoot.

“It takes a certain amount of time for a guy to do that if that if they haven’t been doing it that way their whole career,” Cheeks said. “I don’t think it’s just an overnight thing, I think Brandon is learning a little of that.”

“It’s very important to figure out where a (teammate) should be and direct him where to go,” Cheeks said. “It’s not an overnight thing where you learn how to play with Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Josh Smith.”

You can read my thoughts at ProBasketballTalk.


  • Nov 30, 201312:10 pm
    by jg22


    Both Cheeks and Dumars are right. Jennings is much more experienced and much further along than Knight would’ve been. He’s also still young though himself and, much like Chauncey’s growing pains the first half of the year under LB, Jennings is learning how to be a true PG for the first time and it takes time. It would’ve taken a lot more time though for Knight, as he just lacks the natural PG instincts. Jennings has it, he just needs time to cultivate it and learn all the nuances.
    His offensive play at that position is not really the issue. They could be winning be games while he figures it out (because of all the great individual scorers they have), but they are losing instead because of their defense, and a lot of it is on Jennings’ inability to guard on the ball. He gives up way too much penetration. 
    He could become the next Steve Nash on offense, but f he can’t defend, then its never going to lead us anywhere (as we all saw with Nash).
    So, that’s got to be the more concerning part about Jennings, not his offensive game. And one of the main reasons why they should not rule out eventually packaging him with Monroe for Rondo, if his defense never improves. We could be winning a lot of games right now if he had a defender like Rondo on the perimeter, and didn’t have a defender like Monroe inside. 

    • Nov 30, 20131:48 pm
      by frankie d


      Comparing cheeks to larry brown as a coach?
      How ridiculous does that sound?  If cheeks had anywhere near LB’s track record, a comparison might work, but he has never shown at any stop that he has the ability to, like brown, mold PGs.
      And since wheen has he ever played like nash?
      Nash’s biggest strength was always the fact that he was a great shooter.  The fact that he was such a good playmaker AND shot more than 50% is what made him so great.  And that he never was a guy hunting his own shot despite dominating the ball.
      Unfortunately, none of that can be said about jennings.  His career shooting % is under 40%, and he is notorious for looking for his shot and then passing only when his shot opportunity is not there.
      Too bad. Have to say that i was shocked at how quick jennings was when i saw him here in portland.  He has to be the, or one of the, quickest guys to play in the last decade or so.  His quickness pretty much allows him to get anywhere on the court that he wants.  He knows that, which is why he simply starts hunting his shot at times.  He probably thinks, correctly, that anytime he wants to get a shot, he can.  If he ever learned to be smarter, more careful about taking shots, finding that balance between shooting and passing, he could be one of the best point guards in the nba.  Too bad he just doesnt seem to have that kind of BB IQ.

      • Nov 30, 20135:44 pm
        by jg22


        Huh? You take general examples way too literally.
        In general, PGs take time to develop – like Chauncey did. In general, PGs who are great true PGs but play no defense never win anything – like Nash didn’t. Those are just a few general examples illustrating the larger point. Which is that Jennings, like all PGs, is going to take time to get it, and like all PGs, if he doesn’t play defense its not going matter how great he is on offense.
        Also, you thinking he needs to shoot 50% to be a great PG is utter nonsense. Just so you know Chauncey is a career 40% shooter. So was Jason Kidd. Both PGs who were better than Nash in their era and didn’t need to shoot 50%. 
        Jennings can be a great true PG based solely on his elite play-making ability, like Kidd and Chauncey did. He needs to play defense though, like Kidd Chauncey did, or just great playmaking with poor shooting won’t and no defense won’t do it.
        I do agree though that he needs to find his balance between shooting/playmaking, but that is the whole point here – that takes time to cultivate, and Cheeks is right. It doesn’t happen overnight, where you take a score first PG his whole career and just like that he knows how to balance the two perfectly. It takes time to learn, so to say he doesn’t have the BBIQ to ever learn it isn’t accurate at this point. We don’t know yet because he’s never been asked to do it before and is only 16 games into it now. Which was what Cheeks was saying. I personally don’t care for Cheeks at all as a coach, and didn’t like the hire, but I’m not stubborn to where I won’t admit that he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to playing PG.

        • Nov 30, 20136:38 pm
          by frankie d


          What happened with chauncey was the rare exception and not what usually happens.  Guys dont go through purgatory and then just get it like chauncey did with LB.  Imho, that speaks to LB’s genius.
          It could happen with jennings tho i doubt it, if only because  cheeks aint LB.
          I’ve been a cheeks fan – of his playing career since his rookie year.  He was basically peyton silva and he came into philly and just took the job and did not let it go.  Great, great player…lousy coach.  Knowing what you are talking about and coaching it…teaching it are entirely different skills.  LB had that ability. Cheeks does not.  Unfortunately.

          • Dec 1, 20139:28 am
            by jg22

            I totally disagree. To act like Chauncey was the only PG who ever went through growing pains learning the position is ridiculous, I just used that example because its someone Pistons are familiar with, but it happens to all PGs learning the position at some point.
            I disagree with your assessment of Cheeks not being a good teacher of PGs either. He may be a poor coach overall, in terms of running a whole team, but he HAS  shown the ability to develop PGs. Its funny you keep bringing up LB, and slighting Cheeks in comparison, but it was Cheeks who finally got Iverson to buy into being a PG, something LB could never do.
            AI played SG under Brown because he couldn’t get him to be a PG. Under Cheeks though, he had his best seasons of his career statistically – at the PG position.
            Cheeks also turned Westbrook from an above average player into a superstar. 
            So far in only 16 games under Cheeks, Jennings has played the PG position better than he ever has in his career. He’s 3rd in the East in assists. You can’t call out Cheeks abilit to develop PGs, just because Jennings is not a finished product after 16 games. He has clearly improved his game so far.

          • Dec 1, 20131:13 pm
            by frankie d

            Whether cheeks had anything to do with westbrook’s improvement is a matter of debate. 
            Correlation does not equal causation or whatever that cliche is.  Just because he was present tells us nothing about his involvement with westbrook and his development.  Also, as good as westbrook is, he has never really learned how to actually run a team,  as a true PG.  He is an elite athlete who physically dominates his opponent on both ends of the court.  But OKC’s biggest problem, even now, is that the team lacks a true point guard who can come in and run the offense – as eric maynor did when they had their greatest success and as derek fisher does in limited minutes – because westbrook is simply not a PG capable of doing so.  So citing him as an example of cheeks’ ability to develop point guards is curious.  
            And crediting cheeks with turning westbrook into a superstar is even more curious.  Has anyone – scott brooks, cheeks or westbrook – ever made that claim?  Can you point to such a statement or is that simply your own conjecture?
            Citing AI as an example is even stranger.  So, according to you, cheeks transformed a legendarily stubborn player -AI – into a real PG in the span of the 1 full season, and 15 games he coached him.
            That idea is so laughable to anyone who knows anything about cheeks and AI and BB that i dont even need to say anything further.
            As for AI having career numbers under cheeks,  the reason is pretty obvious.  Cheeks basically lets guys play their game and when a guy like AI got that sort of green light after playing for almost a decade under strict coaches like LB and o’brien, he obviously took advantage of that freedom.  Even if the team suffered.

          • Dec 1, 20133:10 pm
            by frankie d

            and just to be clear…
            i never indicated that chauncey was the only player to ever go through growing pains as a PG.  what i maintained, and the record is pretty clear on this is that it is rare that a guy goes through 5 or 6 years of not being a very good point guard and then turns it around to become an all star point guard who becomes the mvp of the nba finals.  and as i’ve done with before, i simply ask that you point out examples that support your contention.  and i’m not talking about doing everything exactly like chauncey, just becoming a very successful PG who morphs from shoot-first to team leader on the floor who distributes shots.  i have one example in mind, though he is not a perfect fit, and his example if another rare situation that proves the rule.  
            who are you referring to?  which players support your argument?

          • Dec 1, 20139:06 pm
            by Quin

            LB is/was not a genius. Dude just cherrypicked the team that Rick Carlisle built. And then Carlisle went to Indiana and did it again. The Pistons were rising in the playoffs, and were poised to win it all without LB, easily.

          • Dec 1, 20139:41 pm
            by frankie d

            i actually agree with you and think joe d sold his soul to the devil when he fired carlisle and brought in brown.  i thought carlisle was going to have a chuck daly type run with multiple titles and all he needed was time.  imho, he proved he was brown’s equal as a game coach when the pistons beat brown’s ’76ers right before dumars fired carlisle.
            i understand what dumars did on one level, but i’ve always seen it as just another example of his impatience with players and process.  if he’d only been willing to be patient with carlisle and a host of other young players who have come and gone over the years, who knows where this franchise might be today.
            all that being said, however, there is no question that LB is  great coach, a unique nba coach who actually is capable of teaching players and improving them as players.  and there is no doubt that he molds PGs and that chauncey was just one of a long line of PGs that LB has worked with over the years, almost always making them better players, if they are willing to work with him.
            i think LB is a grade A a-hole, but i don’t see how anyone can deny that he is one of the best coaches of all-time and that is simply that.  the record speaks for itself.  no one has done what he has done in the ABA, college basketball and the NBA.  just like any coach, he is not perfect, but he is very good at what he does, warts and all.

  • Nov 30, 201312:11 pm
    by frankie d


    Excellent article.  When dumars made his comments i thought he had been watching another player all those years.

  • Nov 30, 20131:20 pm
    by frankie d


    And what is doubly ironic is that the team has the same basic problems it had last year, before joe d spent almost 80 million dollars: they still need a competent point guard and they still need a wing who can defend and shoot 3′s.  Now the coach has even acknowledged the former.
    Hard to believe it is true but it is true.  After spending all of that money not only did he fail to solve any of the team’s pressing problems but he has actually created more problems.  Incredible.

    • Nov 30, 20131:42 pm
      by Otis


      I don’t think Jennings creates more problems than he solves. He’s got serious flaws, but he’s the best PG option we’ve had in five years. He just needs to learn and focus on the right things. That said, this blather that came out a few weeks ago where Dumars gave Jennings the green light to shoot for the stars flies in the face of this concept that the coach wants him to learn how to be a point guard. Seems like everyone might not be on the same page. Gee whiz. Who’da thunk it? Drafting Brandon Knight was a mistake, plain and simple. He is human garbage. Trading him for Jennings was a respectable way to salvage that blunder. Don’t get that part twisted.
      Next up, Josh Smith provides this team with the flexibility to reshape their roster in a variety of ways, provided Dumars has the stomach to trade Monroe, but he absolutely creates more problems than he solves if Joe brought him here for the sole purpose of playing small forward alongside our incumbent centers. All we heard last season and last summer was that these guys just needed some quality shooters on the wing to space the floor and they would thrive. I personally never believed it, because you couldn’t build around these two centers anyways, but Smith makes a bad situation worse.

      • Nov 30, 20131:57 pm
        by frankie d


        Since when has dumars shown the ability to pursue a long term strategic goal with a series of tactical moves?  
        That is what you are suggesting needs to happen in order to salvage this debacle.
        On the contrary, dumars signature move is the big draft choice or the big trade and once he does that move, he sinks or swims with it.
        The obvious move would be to trade smith -an older player with much less upside than monroe – and get shooters in return.  Unfortunately, it will never happen.

        • Nov 30, 20134:31 pm
          by Otis


          I’m not going to indulge any more conversations about who makes more sense to trade; the slow, unathletic center who has had every opportunity to elevate this team in his three years here but plateaued in his sophomore season and has brought us nowhere, who isn’t even the best center on the roster but is scheduled to become our highest paid player so we can continue to play him alongside our other center who actually has upside (as opposed to throngs of fanboys who simply insist there’s upside despite two seasons of stunted growth), or the undisciplined but skilled power forward who actually complements our franchise center and is already attached to a contract that’s going to hamper his value since we were the high bidders on him.
          One of these guys is a better, safer choice who will fetch a lower annual salary as of next season and won’t be a defensive liability. The other can’t defend his own granny and is a less-than elite option on offense who is still young enough to trick some dope GM into thinking he has loads of untapped potential, and whose contract is so small he can be traded anywhere for any number of solid packages. It’s not a hard choice… if you don’t have a man crush on Monroe.

          • Nov 30, 20134:43 pm
            by lotterybound14

            I thought I was the only one with common sense here…..
            We overpaid for Smith to play the 3- hes underpaid when he becomes your everyday starting 4.

          • Nov 30, 20135:48 pm
            by jg22

            Magnificent post
            I couldn’t have said it better myself

          • Nov 30, 20136:03 pm
            by frankie d

            @ otis
            The hole in your entire argument is that smith has proven to be a boafide nba dummy, a guy with a BB IQ so low he doesnt understand that he should not shoot 3′s.
            How dumb is smith?  One year he actually listened to his coach and stopped shooting 3′s – had 7 the whole year!  - and he had his best season ever and the hawks had their best season with him.  One would think that would sink in.  
            So what does smith do?  Does he take that lesson to heart and change his game and continue to eschew 3 point shots because that course obviously helps him and his team?   
            Hell no!  He goes back to his chucking ways and helps run that coach out of town and his game and the hawks’ record takes a downturn.
            Simply, i hate having a dummy like that on my team and hope like hell that they purge his a@@.  
            Sooner rather than later.

          • Nov 30, 20137:13 pm
            by zdwtr

            Im with otis on this one. Trade moose keep smith. The new guy has to be a lock down defensive SF though

    • Nov 30, 20134:36 pm
      by lotterybound14


      TRADE-MONROE-BEFORE-YOU-GET-NOTHING! If the Pistons would stop trying to jam a square peg into a round hole, so to speak- they would be above .500. You cant win in the NBA without a legitimate three point threat on the wing. Monroe’s stock is at its highest value. Try to go after a Klay Thompson or bring back Afflalo. Golden State can’t pay to keep Thompson, and Orlando is going to need room for Oladipo sooner than later.
      All these problems with Jennings and Smith would seemingly go away if the Pistons could move Josh to power forward and have a guy like Thompson that can straighten out the floor spacing issues.

      • Nov 30, 20136:00 pm
        by jg22


        I don’t think their lack of 3 pt shooting is as much of a problem as is their lack of defending it. 
        Removing Monroe’s lazy ass and putting Smith/Dre inside, would alleviate a lot of the problems defensively. Then you would have a legit SF to stay with this shooters on the perimeter, instead of a PF chasing them around like now with Smith. Also it keeps your two best shotblockers in the paint, instead of one roaming the perimeter like has been the case with Smith playing SF. The result of that is if Jennings gets beat off the dribble, Smith at SF doesn’t have to run to the paint anymore to help because of Monroe’s ineptitude, leaving shooters open on the perimeter.
        Instead, if Jennings gets beat off the dribble, you can just stay home on the shooters and force the opposing to guard to have to score himself inside over our two best shotblockers in Dre/Smith.
        To be honest, they don’t even need to trade Monroe to start playing this way either. They could just bring him off the bench and start Dre/Smith right now. Whats so puzzling is that they not only aren’t doing that, but are barely playing them together up front as a duo at all. And then wonder why they have problems on defense. Gee, you might think to try maximizing your two best interior defenders PT together inside, instead of playing one on the perimeter exclusively everytime they are in together, and instead opting for Monroe’s bum ass inside all the time

      • Dec 1, 20139:45 am
        by T Casey


        The problems with Smith and Jennings won’t go away as long as they’re on the team. It doesn’t matter who we bring in, unless the new guy dominates the ball more than Smith and Jennings, what’s going to stop one or both of those two from jacking up 4/15 performance every other night and stiffling the offense?

        • Dec 1, 20139:59 am
          by T Casey


          (cont’d) A new player in the rotation def won’t improve Jennings perimeter defense and it won’t stop Smith from hoisting up too many 3′s.
          Any team with Smith and Jennings as the centerpieces is going to struggle to play consistently well because those two guys aren’t high iq players and are inconsistent. It would b a bad sign if our best move this year would be getting rid of arguably our best player right now to hold on to two guys shooting below 40%.

  • Nov 30, 20132:17 pm
    by Oracle


    Great Article!
    BTW, frankie d, we miss you over at Pistons Talk, come back home :)

  • Nov 30, 20137:13 pm
    by Hook Shot


    Cheeks is right but Jennings job is complicated by lack of dependable perimeter shooting and a starting line up which is unbalanced with 3 guys who operate well in the paint. 

  • Nov 30, 201310:39 pm
    by Windy


    Monroe has to go to get us something in return…bottomline

  • Dec 1, 201312:29 am
    by AdamG


    Look I agree that maybe it’s time to offload Monroe but who is the replacement we could get for him please don’t say Rudy gay cause I don’t think it’s the answer 

  • Dec 1, 201312:43 am
    by Matt


    On the bright side half the league is tanking for players who may or may not be good and a superstar who probably won’t opt out so not only will 38 wins get us to the playoffs but some of those awful teams will want to unload some good players for a 23 year old Moose. I’d try for Afflalo and Gordon Hayword myself but I’m not the best GM no matter what NBA 2k14 tells me. Martell Webster and Marcus Thornton are also options though neither plays D but neither does Hayword. We may not get the same talent back but at least we’d look like an NBA team. We’d improve just by players play their natural position.

  • Dec 1, 201312:51 am
    by AdamG


    Could we get Jeff green and Bradley for moose and cv bradley could play SG be our lock down defender with green at sf 

  • Dec 1, 20132:53 am
    by PistonManiac


    The Pistons need to realize signing Josh Smith was a disaster. The sooner they are able to dump this guy the better.

  • Dec 1, 20133:15 am
    by AdamG


    I dont see how signing josh was a disaster so easy to make him the scape goat but hey people seem to think they know better had he scored on that drive and some how we won everyone would be riding his c#%k saying how valuable he has become I’d much rather he play pf moving forward but unless we do a trade or some one eats humble pie and comes off the bench that won’t happen 

    • Dec 1, 20139:37 am
      by jg22


      Exactly. You have to just start ignoring these idiot fans, because its clear most of them just have an agenda with Smith. 
      All I know is signing Smith was anything but a disaster, and if we didn’t sign him, then it would be a disaster. Because we would be forced into resigning Monroe’s lazy ass to a huge contract, having no other options.
      I think that’s what fans forget, is that a lot of the reason behind signing Smith in the first place was to give Dumars an option to replace Monroe, should the Monroe-Drummond pairing not work.
      Right now its not working, so the way I see it, we are very fortunate to have signed Smith, because now we can trade Monroe, which Joe never would’ve done if he didn’t have a legit replacement already on the roster.

      • Dec 1, 201310:10 am
        by T Casey


        Can we really say the Monroe-Drummond pairing isn’t won’t work right now? They still haven’t been able to play even 20 games together as starters in a single season. If anything, what’s not working is the two guys averaging less than 40% shooting (Smith and Jennings) while taking the most shots on the team, not the two most efficient offensive players and best rebounders on the team who coincidentally have the highest PER’s on the team.

  • Dec 1, 20138:13 am
    by Lethal Leeroy


    Jennings is getting a raw deal atm… Sure he had a rough start but, for the most part, he has tried to play the way we all want him to. He had 19 and 9 in this loss, and when we needed scoring in the 4th he was the only one able… And then we went away from the hot hand! Crazy.
    He also has 8.1 assists pg, close enough to be top tier in the league. Averaging 15 points and 1.5 steals is decent. Also equal 4th in rebs on this team and has our best handle. Sure he misses defensive assignments at times, but he makes up with better than average active hands and court quickness to interrupt plays… He can also take over a game when the others Just stand around an be ineffective… Like the start of the 4th vs lakers. still crazy.
    He can’t help it if his big men aren’t protecting the paint when he gets beaten…. What do you expect him to stay in front of every guard??? C’mon get real. Point guards get beaten all the time, but good team defense cover these issues usually… but of course we have josh trying to play wing/perimeter D (unsuccessfully), moose doing his best turnstile impersonation, and Andre not challenging enough shots and avoiding fouls so he can get his minutes… 
    i think BJ contributes to our perimeter D deficiencies, but I think josh and moose playing out if position is making everyone look worse than what they are. C’mon  Mo, sort that shit out. Don’t think it’s good career move to oppose the GM publicly either… Get Moose to the bench and he and Stuckey can duke it out for 6th man award! Let’s see Singler and Gigi split minutes at the 3… Better balance equals better D, better D equals more W’s… Moose and Stuckey keep their trade value high… And you keep your job. 

    • Dec 1, 201310:06 am
      by T Casey


      Jennings’ passing has been good, actually great the past few games. But his scoring is absolutely horrible. Sure he averages 15 points per game, but that’s because he’s constantly overshooting despite only making about 38% of his shots.

    • Dec 1, 201311:39 am
      by lisa


      The other guys are standing around because Jennings is jacking up all the shots. Plays stop being ran, because he puts up the shot early in the shot clock, no one touches the ball but him. They stop playing as a team. If he makes the shot great, he’s the hero, if he misses we are down playing defense  out of position. Easy shot for the other team, who know how to close out a game.  It would be nice if we had Drummond in late in the game to scoop those rebounds on those missed shots.

  • Dec 1, 20139:30 am
    by pistons moribund


    mo is gonna have to pick his poison, keep dre in the game and pray he gets better at free throws or get bullwinkle in the game and pray he can defend and rotate.  looks like option two is not working.  JS has not been shooting as much from the outside and pretty sure Mo sees what everyone is seeing.  The defense is still awful.  Having dre and smith and KCP in at the end of the game would help a lot.  If they cant get scores, at least they can get stops.  Then they need someone who can defend the wing, and BJ to run the point.  Having bullwinkle and no wing defense equals loss to any middle rung team. 

    • Dec 1, 20139:46 am
      by jg22


      The 4th quarter coaching last game made no sense.
      They were up 8 with 5 minutes left. At that point, if you have to make a choice between offense and defense as a coach (Monroe or Drummond), how do you not choose defense to try and protect your lead?
      Instead he puts in the defensive liability in Monroe, supposedly for his offense, and then he doesn’t touch the ball the entire quarter. WTF
      Not to mention its not like Drummond is a liability on offense either. In many ways you could argue he’s a more effective offensive player than Monroe, anyways. Just his ability to tip in misses and give your PG a guaranteed lob option at all times, while converting his shots at a 65% rate, that’s better than 1 or 2 occasional post-ups by Monroe, imo.
      Honestly, we don’t need Monroe. He’s a liability on defense and he rarely is even used on offense in 4th quarters. If you aren’t going to use your low post scorer late in close games, what’s the point of having him? That’s pretty much why teams covet low post scoring bigs, for when the offense gets stale late in games, and you have someone to dump the ball into the post. Monroe has never been a legit late game option. In fact, I cabn hardly remember any time in his career that he has come up big in the 4th quarter and won games for us in the post.

  • Dec 1, 20139:36 am
    by AYC


    That Josh Smith sure is hard to peg.  I can’t figure out if he’s a rich man’s Tayshaun Prince, a poor man’s Rasheed Wallace, the best of both worlds or all of the negatives of those two with none of the positives. 

  • Dec 1, 20133:36 pm
    by zdwtr


    Maurice Cheek hasn’t learned how to stop the three points barrages

  • […] it that way their whole career,” Cheeks told Shawn Windsor of the Detroit Free Press (h/t PistonPowered.com). “I don’t think it’s just an overnight thing, I think Brandon is learning a […]

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