Welcome to NBA bizarro world. After the previously woebegone Detroit Pistons won their sixth straight game by beating the world champion San Antonio Spurs on the road, notorious braggart Brandon Jennings – who hit the game-winning leaner as time expired – said he would have played DJ Augustin over himself down the stretch.
Good thing Stan Van Gundy knows what he’s doing.
Jennings is right, of course – in a way. Augustin righted the ship for Detroit as San Antonio made a predictable surge midway through the fourth quarter, keeping his team within one possession of the Spurs via canny pick-and-roll playmaking. Once Jennings checked-in for Augustin with 3:14 remaining, the Pistons’ backup point guard had accounted for six points and two assists in the final stanza, upping his game-long numbers to 19 points and five assists.
But Van Gundy trusts the process more than he does results, and Jennings is a more dynamic playmaker than Augustin – despite the disparate single-night performances of both players. The lefty entered the game late having made just 4-of-15 shots, and misfired on a pair of relatively easy paint attempts in the final two minutes.
Unsurprisingly, though, Jennings was unfazed by his prior failings on the game’s penultimate possession:
The win is important, but also of major encouraging note for the Pistons is Jennings’ post-game self-awareness. The guy we know – or thought we knew, more accurately – would be uncomfortable publicly admitting that a teammate was performing better than he was, especially considering the clutch heroics.
Jennings and Detroit are growing, though, and the absence of Josh Smith – ridiculous as this narrative appeared at first – can’t be discounted in assessing that progress. Beyond any on-court improvement, Jennings’ sentiment concerning Augustin and the one below really, really matter:
Belief in team is just as important as belief in self. Jennings always had the latter, and it’s clear he’s gained the former.
As Detroit makes a shocking mid-season playoff push, the impact of that development will continue looming large.
What do you think?
Follow Jack on Twitter at @ArmstrongWinter.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.