Today is a big day for Brandon Jennings. His Milwaukee Bucks Play the Atlanta Hawks in a series deciding game 7 today. Game 7 provides a rare opportunity. The rookie point guard has a chance to become a superstar over night. With a big-time performance today in front of a national audience Jennings could win the hearts of millions of fans, establish his reputation among players in the league, and most importantly win control of his own locker-room.
Some would argue the real prize Jennings could win is the favor of NBA commissioner David Stern and that would be the real key to achieving superstardom. I would agree in as much as Stern determines the TV schedules and grant Jennings and the Bucks international exposure if he so chooses. But that exposure doesn’t matter if Jennings doesn’t own the Bucks first. The dirty little not-so-secret secret about superstars is that their head coaches are indebted to them. While following a coach’s instruction can make you a star, it is only by usurping the coach’s authority that a player becomes a superstar.
So how can Jennings possibly usurp the authority of a disciplinarian like Scott Skiles? By seizing the opportune moment.
That opportune moment could arise in game 7. At some point the game, and the series will ultimately have to be decided by the players, not the coach. At some point the coach may have to concede this. At that point a player has to step up and claim victory or defeat, for himself, for the team, for the coach and for the city. As the point guard, and (with Andrew Bogut injured) the best player on the team, and the only player with any kind of national following outside of Milwaukee, Jennings is the best position to seize that moment.
Now a lot has to go right for the scenario to play out where Skiles has to hand over the keys to Jennings. Most likely it has to be a tight game. Jennings performance has to be superlative to the rest of the players on the court, and most importantly, Jennings performance has to be signature Jennings, not signature Skiles. Otherwise Skiles is not putting faith in Jennings he is merely putting faith in himself and his coaching abilities as he imparted the right way to play to Jennings. But if circumstances do necessitate a player’s takeover, and Jennings does seize that moment and leads the Bucks to victory and into the 2nd round, he will own Skiles, and the rest of the Bucks organization.
Seizing the opportune moment is somewhere between an Oedipus Complex and Mutiny, in so far as a subordinate surpasses a superior in authority. It’s a “The Student has become the teacher”, kind of thing.
The Euphemistic way of putting it is to say that the coach puts faith in his player and the player rewards that faith, so the coach grows to trust the player on the court. But the truth is the coach trades his authority for a win. In this particular case a victory and a trip to the 2nd round would validate Skiles as a legitimate coach, having advanced in the playoffs with 2 separate teams. The good news for Jennings is Skiles has a history of trading his authority for a win. He traded his authority to Ben Gordon last time he advanced with the Chicago Bulls. The bad news is he didn’t have to because Gordon didn’t overtly seize the moment, he just took the trade Skile’s offered and the deal eventually ruined a promising Bulls team, and cost Skile’s his job there.
If the cards fall Jennings way and he delivers a signature Jennings performance (which most likely means an array of seemingly miraculous rainbow fall-away pull up jumpers) on the national stage when it counts most, everyone in that Bucks locker-room including Coach Skiles will have to admit that their best chance for success as a team has been proven, trial by fire on the court, to be Brandon Jennings being Brandon Jennings. At that moment it will be his team. And like I said at the beginning, being a superstar doesn’t matter unless the player has ownership of his team.