The Washington Wizards have found their backup point guard.
Brandon Jennings, an eight-year veteran who was waived by the New York Knicks on Monday, has reached an agreement to join the Wizards for the remainder of the 2016-17 season, pending that he clear waivers. Teams with ample cap space or big enough trade exceptions to absorb Jennings and his $5 million salary for this year have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to claim him.
“He just brings a lot of energy,” John Wall said about Jennings. “He’s a guy that can pass the ball, he brings a lot of swag and can help us.”
Assuming that Jennings does clear waivers, the Wizards will have to trim their roster to 15 players. Rookie Danuel House Jr., who has shuttled between the NBA and D-League, is a potential candidate to be waived. The Wizards signed House as an undrafted free agent, but his first season has been interrupted with a right wrist injury. House, who spent Tuesday with the Delaware 87ers, has been inactive for 45 games.
On Tuesday night, when the Wizards faced the Golden State Warriors, Trey Burke did not play his normal rotation minutes. Though he originally signed with the Wizards to back up Wall, Burke, who is more of a natural scorer than a facilitator, did not easily fit into the role.
The move with Jennings proves that the Wizards are willing to look past a player’s history if they feel he can offer immediate help.
Jennings has an interesting past with the Wizards. During a preseason game against them, Jennings got involved in a light confrontation with Casper Ware, a training camp invitee who was later cut. Jennings talked trash, delivered a hard foul and taunted Ware by enthusiastically clapping his hands while playing defense. Then, during the Nov. 17 meeting between the Wizards and the Knicks, Wall seemed to get revenge by mimicking the move — clapping his hands in Jennings’s face.
“It was a little back-and-forth talking between both guys,” Wall said after the game. “Brandon was kind of hot in the fourth quarter. So we had a little back-and-forth talk.”
Those heated moments aside, Jennings should address the Wizards’ season-long problem within the second unit.
Although the Wizards have auditioned Burke as well as rookie Tomas Satoransky in the role of reserve point guard, the bench has struggled in creating easy offense at the start of the second and fourth quarters. Before the trade deadline, Washington made a deal to acquire Bojan Bogdanovic, a proven scorer who averaged more than 14 points per game with the Brooklyn Nets. But even Bogdanovic’s presence did not energize the second unit’s sluggish offense in losses to the Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz.
This season, Jennings has averaged 8.6 points, 4.9 assists and 2.6 rebounds in 24.6 minutes for the 24-36 Knicks, who reportedly agreed to pay him the balance of a one-year, $5 million deal he signed with the team in the offseason. The 10th overall pick in the 2009 draft by the Bucks, Jennings has also played for the Pistons and Magic.
With a career average of 14.8 points, Jennings could give the Wizards some more scoring from off the bench, although his defense has been criticized.