DALLAS — From the very beginning of Jalen Brunson’s career with the Dallas Mavericks — and we mean from the night of the NBA draft, when then-coach Rick Carlisle proudly proclaimed that the second Villanova’s turn was a “true pro” even though Jalen hadn’t even tried on a uniform yet – the kid “fit”.
And now that he’s one of the New York Knicks’ newest rookies? Yes, again, professionalism at the head of Workplace Chemistry will not be an issue in his new Manhattan office.
Brunson says he will “definitely miss” DFW, via the “Good Word with Goodwill” podcast. But the Knicks gave him $104 million worth of reasons to want to return home to New York, and now he can’t hide his excitement about collaborating with coach Tom Thibodeau … and yes, with another guy. with DFW connections, Julius Randle.
“Julius is very capable of doing things with the ball,” Brunson said. “As long as we win games. We have to try to find ways to win games. I think we have a very good opportunity to do that.”
Although Randle’s future in New York is anything but clear, Brunson believes the most improved player of the 2020-21 season can regain his form. He also believes that changing cities, teams and teammates won’t stop him from thriving again.
“It’s going to be different for me, it’s going to be different for a lot of people,” Brunson said. “But I’ve never backed down from a challenge and I don’t plan to do that here.”
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Brunson won the Mavericks in the team’s surprise run to the Western Conference Finals last spring. The Knicks’ lack of playoff consistency has been well documented, with the team dropping from fourth to 11th in the Eastern Conference playoff standings in their last season outing.
Part of the decline is due to a lack of production at point guard, where the Knicks have been dissatisfied for several seasons. The team hoped Kemba Walker would fill the void, but he was instead traded after just one disappointing season to help make financial room for Brunson, who is inked for the next four years.
The pressure at point guard is mounting with head coach Thibodeau returning to New York for another year. Brunson brushed off any thoughts of “blocking” Thibodeau, as presented to him on the podcast.
“I don’t think I’m ever going to block it,” Brunson said. “Obviously Thibs is Thibs. I think I’ve learned to carry the message of everything. When someone picks on you or someone tries to motivate you to be better, you can’t really care if he’s yelling or yelling or whatever. You just have to take the message and move it forward.”
“I’ve known Thibs for a long time, he knows that,” Brunson added. “I can be coached, I can be pushed. I’m not really too worried about it. I’m actually really excited because to have this all come full circle is actually really special.”
Brunson was successful with fellow Dallas teammates Luka Doncic down. He has also been successful with different coaches, from Carlisle to Jason Kidd. He “takes the message and keeps moving forward”… including moving from Dallas to New York.