Knicks Notes: Brunson, Hart, Randle, Toppin

The last time Knicks guard Jalen Brunson and Pacers coach Rick Carlisle were together in a playoff series, they were on the same side, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post. It was 2021, long before Brunson became an All-Star, and he saw just 10 minutes off the bench in a Game 7 loss to the Clippers that turned out to be the end of Carlisle’s tenure in Dallas. Asked about that experience after Saturday’s practice, Brunson said there are no hard feelings and it won’t factor into his preparation for the matchup with Indiana.

“In all honesty, I said this last time, you’re in the playoffs now, there is no extra motivation,” Brunson said. “It is what it is. The past is the past. Rick welcomed me into the league and helped me become the player [I am today] and helped me grow from Day 1. Coaches got to make decisions that better suit their teams. Whatever happened, happened, and we’re moving forward from there.” 

Brunson’s game flourished after Jason Kidd replaced Carlisle with the Mavericks, enabling him to get a huge offer from the Knicks as a free agent in 2022. Carlisle also said there’s no point in focusing on the past and acknowledged that Brunson has become one of the league’s top players.

“Jalen Brunson is a guy you would never bet against,” Carlisle said. “You just don’t bet against that guy. I don’t know if anybody saw this coming, what he’s achieved for two years now, but if you know him and you know his character, you’re not surprised. You’re not shocked.” 

There’s more from New York:

  • Comments that Josh Hart made about Indiana in February are being revisited ahead of the Knicks-Pacers series, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Post. Hart was critical of the Hoosier State on a “Roommates Show” podcast with Brunson, saying, “If I don’t have to play the Indiana Pacers, I’m not stepping foot in that state. I don’t want to be in Indiana for any All-Star break, for anything. I am not an Indiana guy.” Hart added that he enjoys a couple of Indianapolis food options, but otherwise called the state “bottom of the barrel.”
  • Even though the Knicks were able to get past Philadelphia in round one, Hart said they’re not the same team without Julius Randle, relays Ian Begley of SNY. Randle has been out of action since separating his right shoulder in late January. “He’s an All-Star. He [averaged] 24-9-and-5 or whatever it is, so that play-making, shot making, is something that we’re missing,” Hart said. “It’s funny: when people talk about us they somehow forget the big void we have of 24-and-9 gone. It’s not like he’s out there with us 70-80 percent.  He’s not out there. So that’s something that’s a big void that we knew was gonna be hard to fill; but his play-making, his shot making, his energy is something that we definitely miss.”
  • One of the storylines of the upcoming series will be the presence of Obi Toppin, who was Leon Rose’s first draft pick after taking over as president of the Knicks, Botte notes in a separate story. Toppin was stuck behind Randle in New York, but he posted career-best numbers after being traded to Indiana last summer for a pair of second-round picks.
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