Jalen Brunson

Atlantic Notes: Brunson, Irving, Raptors

As the NBA continues its investigation into the timing of the Knicks‘ free agent acquisition of point guard Jalen BrunsonFred Katz of The Athletic parses through the extant evidence. Rumors ahead of 2022 free agency suggested Brunson would leave the Mavericks for the Knicks to the tune of a fresh four-year, $104MM deal. When that chatter proved to be true, the league opted to look into just what transpired, and when.

Katz notes that it’s difficult to discern just what kind of pre-free agency conversations the NBA will frown upon, in part given the fact that Jalen’s father, former New York point guard Rick Brunson, was hired as an assistant coach under Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau in June. Knicks team president Leon Rose, once an NBA agent representing Rick, has known both Brunsons for decades.

Last year, the league opted to penalize the Bulls and Heat for what it perceived to be tampering violations in their 2021 sign-and-trade moves for Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry, respectively. Each team was forced to surrender an upcoming second-round pick. This year, in addition to the Knicks, the NBA is also investigating the Sixers for possible tampering violations.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • When Nets point guard Kyrie Irving returned to his native New Jersey for his pro-am “More Than A Run” All-Star Game at Kean University, Brooklyn made a point to showcase the moment on the team’s official social media platforms. In an effort to read the tea leaves, Adam Zagoria of NJ.com suggests that it appears to be increasingly possible Irving returns to Brooklyn this fall, rather than being offloaded in a trade ahead of the season. Kyrie’s teammates Kessler Edwards, David Duke Jr., and Royce O’Neale were all in attendance at the New Jersey event.
  • Heat point guard Kyle Lowry, at some point during his successful run with the Raptors, attempted to lure Vince Carter back to Toronto, Lowry revealed on Carter’s podcast The Vince Carter Show (Twitter video link via Uninterrupted Canada). “I tried to get Vince back with us at one point,” Lowry said. “We had conversations,” Carter confirmed. “We tried to get it done, it didn’t work out,” Lowry continued. “I was one of the biggest advocates that tried to get him back in Toronto and Vince was all-in.” It is unclear exactly when this recruitment transpired, but presumably this came fairly late in Carter’s illustrious career. The Raptors originally drafted Carter with the fifth pick out of North Carolina. The 6’6″ wing was named to his first five All-Star teams while with Toronto, before eventually being traded to the Nets in the midst of what was to be his sixth consecutive All-Star season in 2004/05. An eight-time All-Star overall, Carter would go on to play for an NBA-record 22 seasons. He finally retired at age 43 in 2020, following a two-year stint as a bench role player with the Hawks.
  • In case you missed it, 6’11” Serbian power forward/center Filip Petrusev, who was drafted with the No. 50 pick by the Sixers in 2021, expressed confidence in Philadelphia’s developmental plan for him. Petrusev, a native Serbian, will suit up for Serbian club Crvena Zvezda during the 2022/23 season.

Southwest Notes: Brunson, Gelfand, Clarke, Johnson

The Knicks are under investigation by the league regarding potential tampering during their pursuit of free agent Jalen Brunson, but that probe wasn’t instigated by Brunson’s old team. According to Marc Stein’s sources, the Mavericks did not file an official complaint against the Knicks, as he reports in his latest Substack post. The Knicks made a series of salary-dumping moves prior to free agency, then snagged Brunson away from Dallas with a four-year, $104MM contract.

We have more Southwest Division news:

  • In the same Substack article, Stein indicates that the Pelicans are making a hard push to hire Pistons analytics expert Sammy Gelfand. Gelfand and Pelicans coach Willie Green previously worked together with the Warriors.
  • Brandon Clarke would be a logical choice to replace Jaren Jackson Jr. in the Grizzlies‘ lineup until Jackson is ready to return from foot surgery. However, that would create other issues, Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal notes. Clarke didn’t play much with center Steven Adams last season due to the fact that both operate out of the paint. Coach Taylor Jenkins also liked having Clarke on the second unit due to his scoring ability.
  • Keldon Johnson won’t rest on his laurels after signing a four-year, $80MM extension. The Spurs forward told Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express News that he held a little celebration with family and friends, then went back to work. “I was in the gym the next day,” he said. Johnson wants to live up to the contract. “It’s always been full-time basketball,” Johnson said. “I knew as long as I put in the time and the effort, the extension would come. … I’m in some of the best shape of my life, the strongest I have been in my life.”

NBA Opens Tampering Investigation Into Knicks

The NBA has begun an investigation into the Knicks for possible tampering related to the team’s free agent signing of Jalen Brunson, sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. According to Haynes, the league will attempt to determine whether New York made contact with Brunson before the free agent period started.

The Knicks signed Brunson to a four-year, $104MM contract last month. Days before free agency opened, word began to trickle out that Brunson was “widely anticipated” to sign with New York for a four-year deal exceeding $100MM, with multiple reports suggesting that the Mavericks had believed for weeks that the point guard was bound for the Knicks.

A June 29 report stated that Brunson planned to meet with the Knicks, Mavs, and Heat when free agency began, but the meetings with Dallas and Miami never took place, with the Heat disputing that they’d scheduled a sit-down at all with the former second-round pick.

We don’t know exactly what happened behind the scenes, but the sequence of events created the impression that the Mavs and Heat knew Brunson would be joining the Knicks and didn’t want to waste their time, while the guard’s camp was trying to create the impression that a final decision hadn’t yet been made.

It’s not unusual for free agents’ presumed destinations to leak before the negotiating period officially begins on June 30. However, it raises eyebrows in the league office when the details of a rival team’s offer to a free agent leaks days in advance and there’s a publicly-reported widespread belief that the player will join that team. The Sixers are facing a similar investigation due to their free agency moves, including a contract agreement with P.J. Tucker that leaked early.

Brunson’s case is further complicated by the fact that he has personal relationships with so many people within the Knicks’ organization. Leon Rose represented Brunson as a player agent before he joined New York’s front office, and his son Sam Rose is now one of Brunson’s reps at CAA. Rick Brunson, Jalen’s father, was hired by the Knicks as an assistant coach several weeks before free agency began.

While the NBA has ostensibly made more of an effort to penalize teams for violations related to tampering and free agency gun-jumping in recent years, it’s not as if Brunson’s contract with the Knicks is in any danger of being voided.

The Bulls, Heat, and Bucks have all been penalized for similar free agency violations since 2020, and all three teams were forced to forfeit a future second-round pick. It will be surprising if the Knicks face a stiffer penalty than that once the investigation into their contact with Brunson is complete.

It will likely take some time for the NBA to announce the results of its probe. Last year, the investigation into the Heat and Bulls was reported on August 7 and the penalties weren’t announced until December 1.

Southwest Notes: Brunson, Finney-Smith, Rockets, Wesley

Former Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson expected to stay with the franchise for a long time, he revealed on JJ Redick’s The Old Man & The Three podcast (Twitter link). Instead, Brunson wound up signing with the Knicks this month, inking a four-year, $104MM deal.

“I loved my time in Dallas. I thought I was going to be in Dallas for a long time,” Brunson said. “I started having a monster season. I went to them before they officially offered it to me, and by the end, it was kind of too late.”

As has been previously reported, Brunson was interested early in the 2021/22 season in the same four-year, $56MM extension Dorian Finney-Smith eventually signed, but by the time the Mavericks offered it after the trade deadline, Brunson had outperformed it.

“The business came knocking at the door, and so it was time to at least look [in free agency]. I had to do my due diligence and look to see what was out there.”

Brunson is coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 16.3 points per game. He was a secondary creator alongside Luka Doncic, also averaging 4.8 assists and shooting an efficient 50%.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith is aiming to be more of a vocal leader next season, as relayed by Dwain Price of Mavs.com. Finney-Smith is eyeing a ring with Dallas, who’s expected to compete for a title after losing in the Conference Finals 4-1 to Golden State last season. The Mavericks acquired Christian Wood and have a top-tier offense, but they’ll need to give a high-level defensive effort to contend. They ranked seventh in defensive rating (109.1) and 10th in defensive rebound percentage (73.3%) last season.
  • Kelly Iko of The Athletic examines several Rockets topics in his mailbag, including next summer’s free agency, new assistant coaches and more. Houston is coming off a 20-62 season and is continuing a full-scale rebuild. The team has a young nucleus of Kevin Porter Jr. (22), Jalen Green (20), Jabari Smith Jr. (19) and others to build around. Houston also recently added Lionel Hollins, Mike Batiste and Mahmoud Abdelfattah to its coaching staff.
  • Ethan Fuller of BasketballNews.com interviews Blake Wesley, who was drafted No. 25 overall by the Spurs last month. Wesley appears ready to sharpen his point guard skills. “I see myself as a point guard, so going into the NBA I feel I’m gonna be a point guard,” Wesley said. “A big key to the Spurs is [being] 6-foot-5, long [and] athletic, so to get guys open is gonna be good for me. I’m gonna get to the paint and find guys.”

Knicks Notes: Tampering, Brunson, Wright, Fournier, Rose, Mitchell

There is a strong possibility the NBA will open up a tampering investigation into the Knicks’ recruitment of Jalen Brunson, according to The Athletic’s Fred Katz. A rival team doesn’t necessarily need to file official tampering charges to make it happen, considering that reports of an agreement between the Knicks and Brunson surfaced before the two sides could negotiate. The Knicks also made salary-shedding moves with the confidence Brunson would come aboard if they opened up enough cap room.

We have more on the Knicks:

  • Brunson’s college coach, Jay Wright, said the former Villanova star will embrace the pressure of playing in New York City, Zach Braziller of the New York Post writes. “He is very comfortable in having all that pressure on him,” Wright said of Brunson. “When Luka [Doncic] was out, he was very comfortable taking on that responsibility in the playoffs. But he’s really smart and he really knows that he needs good players around him, too. His basketball IQ is off the charts. He will look at the game like a coach and a general manager. His ego doesn’t get in the way. But he’ll never shy from the responsibility. He loves it.”
  • If the Knicks don’t trade RJ Barrett or Julius Randle in a blockbuster deal for Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, then either Derrick Rose or Evan Fournier would have to be dealt for salary-matching purposes. SNY TV’s Ian Begley looks at potential combinations of players that the Knicks could send out to Utah.
  • Mitchell may be one of the top 10 offensive talents in the league but he’s not considered a top-10 player overall due to his defensive shortcomings. The Ringer’s Dan Devine explores whether Mitchell is the right star for the Knicks to pursue.

Jalen Brunson Talks Knicks, Mavericks, L. Rose, Mentality

After officially finalizing his new $104MM deal with the Knicks, guard Jalen Brunson sat down this week for a wide-ranging interview moderated by Bill Pidto of MSG and attended by season ticket holders (YouTube video link).

“It’s like a whirlwind of emotions for me,” Brunson told Pidto (hat tip to Alex Smith of SNY.tv for some of the transcription). “It’s a lot. This building (Knicks home arena Madison Square Garden) is very special and I’m just happy to hopefully create some new memories here.”

During a breakout 2021/22 season for the Mavericks, Brunson averaged career highs of 16.3 PPG, 4.8 APG, 3.9 RPG, and 0.8 SPG across 79 contests, including 61 starts. He posted shooting splits of .502/.373/.840. Starting in the backcourt alongside All-NBA guard Luka Doncic, Brunson helped Dallas return to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in 11 years. The team lost in five games to the eventual champion Warriors.

Here’s more from Brunson’s conversation with Pidto:

  • The 25-year-old Brunson, whose father Rick Brunson is now an assistant coach under Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau, discussed his familial connections to the club. The elder Brunson, himself a former NBA point guard, also played for the Knicks during the 1999/2000 NBA season. Thibodeau was an assistant coach under Jeff Van Gundy at the time. “It brings everything full circle,” Jalen Brunson said of joining the Knicks organization. “I’ve known them for a long time. It’s family. It’s a comfort level to this and something that I just couldn’t turn a blind eye to. I knew that these guys have my best interests at heart, and… I think Leon (Rose) probably saw me before my dad did, so it’s just one big family for me and I’m just super excited.”
  • When asked about his successful tenure with the Mavericks, culminating in the aforementioned trip to the 2022 Western Conference Finals, Brunson reflected on his difficult decision to move on to a new team. “For the longest time, I thought I would never leave Dallas,” Brunson said. “I thought Dallas was my home for my entire career. It’s a great place, it’s a place that I really wanted to be and I’m so thankful that they took a chance on me. It was definitely tough. I’m going to miss my teammates. That organization’s special. The relationships that I made that, it was really special, so I’m definitely going to miss it.”
  • The 6’1″ point guard spoke of how his mentality will fit a revamped Knicks roster. “(I’m a) person who’s never going to quit,” Brunson, a two-time NCAA champion while with Villanova, said. “It’s never been in my DNA. Something about me is that it’s about the little things for me. People see the stats and all that stuff, but the things that matter to me most [are] the little things like putting my body on the line for my teammates, diving on the ground, being that person that everyone can turn to saying, ‘That guy is going to do everything he can to help this team win a game,’ and that’s just how I’ve been my entire life.”
  • Brunson discussed his evolution as a player, from prep school through the NBA. “Everywhere I’ve gone, since high school it started for me, it’s always been, ‘Jalen Brunson’s good, but’ — it’s always that ‘but,'” Brunson said. “They’re going to say something negative about (me)…. It was ‘too slow,’ ‘not athletic enough,’ ‘too small,’ all those things that don’t measure heart.”

Stein’s Latest: Mitchell, Knicks, Sixers, Lakers, Beverley

New York’s impending pursuit of Jalen Brunson became obvious once a Knicks contingent led by Julius Randle, William Wesley and Allan Houston was spotted at Game 1 of the first-round series between the Mavericks and Jazz. However, as Marc Stein writes in his lastest article for Substack, it’s clear now that New York had designs on pursuing Donovan Mitchell as well as Brunson.

Recent reports from Tony Jones of The Athletic and Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune indicate that the Jazz are looking for six first-round picks and young players in exchange for Mitchell, but the Knicks balked at that asking price. According to Stein, even if the Knicks have more draft picks to offer at the moment, they should be “careful not to underestimate” the Heat and Nets as potential Mitchell suitors.

Under president Leon Rose, the Knicks have unsuccessfully pursued other star players, which is why it’s so important to the incumbent regime to land a player of Mitchell’s stature, Stein says.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • Mitchell has multiple ties to the Knicks, Stein adds. Mitchell is “very close” with Knicks assistant Johnnie Bryant, who was an assistant with the Jazz for several seasons and recently had multiple interviews for Utah’s head coaching job. He’s also friends with Brunson due to their shared connection with Eric Paschall, who is Mitchell’s closest friend in the NBA and was college teammates with Brunson at Villanova, per Stein.
  • Like the Knicks’ pursuit of Brunson, the Sixers are likely to face a tampering investigation due to the signing of P.J. Tucker, according to Stein, who reported four days before free agency opened that several rival teams were convinced that Tucker would land with Philadelphia. Stein and others had linked Tucker to the Sixers even before the draft, a week before free agency opened, and Stein notes that Tucker’s agent informed Shams Charania of The Athletic that he was heading to Philly a minute after free agency opened.
  • It has been rumored that the Lakers might be interested in Jazz guard Patrick Beverley, but a source tells Stein that L.A. has no plans to deal Talen Horton-Tucker for the veteran. The Lakers have been prioritizing speed and youth in the offseason, so swapping a 21-year-old for a 34-year-old would detract from that, Stein notes. Horton-Tucker had been floated as a possibility because the Lakers don’t have any other mid-size contracts for salary-matching purposes — he’ll make $10.26MM in 2022/23, while Beverley will earn $13MM.

Knicks Notes: Mitchell, Barrett, Brunson, Hartenstein, Robinson

The Knicks don’t view their newly announced signing of Jalen Brunson as an impediment to a potential pursuit of Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, writes Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. As Fischer explains, the team believes that the addition of Brunson is a “key ingredient” in its plan of adding a legitimate All-Star to the roster, since the former Maverick is the sort of table-setter and secondary scorer whom a star would want to play alongside.

While the Knicks have stockpiled a number of extra future draft picks, it remains to be seen whether or not they’ll be able to put together the sort of trade package the Jazz can’t refuse for Mitchell. As Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post writes, Utah would almost certainly push for New York to include former No. 3 overall pick RJ Barrett, who has All-Star upside.

Vaccaro argues that the Knicks should be willing to give up Barrett for a player like Mitchell, who is already an All-Star, but it’s unclear how significantly the Jazz value the former Duke standout, how inclined New York is to include him an offer, and how many more assets Utah would want in addition to Barrett.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Brunson’s four-year, $104MM deal with the Knicks has a descending structure, beginning at $27.7MM in year one and eventually dipping to $24.9MM in years three and four, per Fred Katz of The Athletic (Twitter link). Brunson also got a 10% trade kicker to go along with his fourth-player option, a source tells Katz.
  • Isaiah Hartenstein has $16MM in guaranteed money on his two-year contract with the Knicks, along with a 5% trade kicker and $1.05MM in annual unlikely incentives, according to Katz (Twitter links). Hartenstein has three separate bonuses worth $350K apiece for playing at least 1,350 regular season minutes, the Knicks winning at least 40 games, and the Knicks making the playoffs, Katz adds.
  • Like Brunson’s new contract, Mitchell Robinson‘s four-year, $60MM pact has a descending structure, according to Katz (Twitter link). The deal, which doesn’t feature any options or a trade kicker, begins at $17MM in 2022/23 and decreases to $13MM in ’25/26.

Jalen Brunson Signs Four-Year Contract With Knicks

JULY 12: Brunson’s deal with the Knicks is official, the team announced on Twitter.

We are beyond thrilled to add Jalen Brunson to our organization,” said Knicks president Leon Rose. “He’s a competitor, a leader, a play-maker, and most importantly a winner. His addition is a perfect complement to the team that we are building and the culture we are establishing.”

JUNE 30, 8:36am: Brunson has now formally agreed to a four-year, $104MM contract with the Knicks, agents Aaron Mintz and Sam Rose tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The deal will include a fourth-year player option.

JUNE 30, 4:05pm: The Mavericks have been informed that free agent point guard Jalen Brunson intends to sign with the Knicks, a source tells Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link).

Brunson’s new deal will be worth in the neighborhood of $110MM over four years, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who tweets that Dallas didn’t get the opportunity to make a final offer. Marc Stein (Twitter link) hears the contract will be worth about $105MM, plus incentives.

The meeting that Brunson had set with the Mavericks in New York City at the start of free agency is no longer taking place, according to Stein (Twitter link). A report last night suggested that Brunson would meet with the Knicks, Mavericks, and Heat at the start of free agency, but word broke earlier today that the meeting with Miami wasn’t happening either.

Brunson, 25, appeared in 79 regular season games last season (31.9 MPG), averaging 16.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG and 4.8 APG on .502/.373/.840 shooting. He also posted a 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, considered a strong benchmark for a ball-handler.

Brunson also excelled with a larger role in the postseason, averaging 21.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 3.7 APG on .466/.347/.800 shooting in 18 games (34.9 MPG). He led the team to back-to-back first-round victories over Utah in the absence of injured star Luka Doncic, scoring 41 points and 31 points, respectively.

Despite his strong performances last season, Brunson isn’t without flaws. He’s only 6’1″ and although he’s strong, he’s not the best athlete, which limits his defensive versatility.

The Knicks and Brunson have been linked to one another for months. As has been repeated ad nauseam, Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose is Brunson’s former agent, Rose’s son Sam Rose is Brunson’s current agent, and Brunson’s father Rick Brunson was recently hired as a Knicks assistant.

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated previously reported that part of the Knicks’ pitch to Brunson is the ability to be the full-time starting point guard. In Dallas, he’s more of a secondary option at the position, with Doncic running the show.

The Mavericks had long projected confidence in their ability to re-sign Brunson, but that confidence had waned considerably over the past week or so. They held his Bird Rights, giving them the ability to offer more years (five) and money than other teams, but reportedly were only willing to go as high as $106MM over five years, which is obviously considerably less annually than the Knicks are offering.

Dallas projects to be far over the salary cap, limiting the team’s ability to secure an adequate replacement for Brunson. However, Stein reports (via Twitter) that the Mavs aren’t expected to immediately pursue a replacement, instead relying on incumbent guards Spencer Dinwiddie and Tim Hardaway Jr. for backcourt depth.

Hardway missed about half the season, including the postseason, but he should be healthy for 2022/23, Stein notes. Dallas eventually plans to go after veteran guard Goran Dragic once the team pursues higher priority targets, including wings and frontcourt players, per Stein.

It’s worth noting that reports two days ago said the Knicks were expected to land Brunson on the terms outlined above, and now his commitment to New York has all but been finalized before free agency officially opens, so it’s possible the Knicks will face a tampering investigation in the future.

Knicks Trade Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks To Pistons

JULY 11: The Knicks and Pistons have officially completed their trade, the teams announced today in a pair of press releases.

As expected, the Pistons acquired Noel, Burks, cash, and the team’s own 2023 second-round pick. The second pick Detroit received will be either Minnesota’s or New York’s 2026 second-rounder, rather than the heavily protected Miami 2024 second-rounder described below.

The Knicks, meanwhile, received the draft rights to 2015 second-rounder Nikola Radicevic and a protected 2025 second-round pick. That pick will have top-55 protection, tweets Fred Katz of The Athletic.

JUNE 28: The Knicks are trading center Nerlens Noel and guard Alec Burks to the Pistons, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

The Knicks will unload more than $19MM in 2022/23 salary in the deal, providing ample cap space to sign free agent guard Jalen Brunson. Noel has a $9.24MM salary next season, while Burks is due approximately $10MM.

Both players are signed through the 2023/24 season, but there are team options in the final year of their respective contracts — Noel at $9.68MM and Burks at approximately $10.5MM. Thus, those salaries could come off the Pistons’ cap next summer.

New York will send Detroit back its 2023 second-round pick, plus the Heat’s 2024 second-round pick (top-55 protected) and $6MM in cash as sweeteners to take those contracts off its books, Wojnarowski reports in a separate tweet.

The Pistons can absorb those salaries without sending out any contracts, since they were projected to have more cap space than any other team. The Knicks, meanwhile, should have now the cap room necessary to sign Jalen Brunson in free agency.

The Knicks and Pistons were also involved in a three-way draft-night agreement that included the Hornets. In that trade, Detroit took Kemba Walker‘s contract off New York’s books and acquired the draft rights to Jalen Duren.

The Pistons plan on keeping Burks and Noel, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Burks, a 38% career 3-point shooter, will give the Pistons a perimeter threat on the wing who can help mentor the young backcourt of Cade Cunningham and rookie Jaden Ivey. Noel provides depth in the middle behind Isaiah Stewart and Duren.

Despite the addition of Noel, the Pistons are still committed to bringing back restricted free agent Marvin Bagley III, Omari Sankofa of the Detroit Free Press tweets.