Friday, January 27, 2023

Jalen Brunson: A compass for the Knicks

New York, the city that never sleeps, is often as grateful as the cannibals. For the Knicks, with only one playoff appearance in the past nine years, the constant media turmoil and massive pressure from the environment often eat away at their reality. The franchise has lived this century in the dark, with only one playoff win in the last stint (2013) in over twenty years. And the scar is visible in part because unlike the past it feeds into.

The Knicks enjoyed a heyday in the 1990s. In fact, with the exception of what he experienced in the seventies (where he won only two championships so far, in 1970 and 1973), arguably the end of the century represented his best memory. One in which competition was not an aspiration but a vital stage. During that period, the team from the Big Apple won at least one round of the playoffs nine consecutive years, reaching the NBA Finals twice (1994 and 1999).

There hasn’t been a single father of 21st century shadows on the Knicks. Many reasons have given rise to them. But on the rectangle that ultimately marks the fate of the rest, the absence of an iconic point guard at a flourishing moment in his career has been one of the most significant holes. For this reason, when Jeremy Lin’s shooting star broke out, unleashing an absolute fever in February 2012, the social mass of the Knicks saw not only an unexpected new savior, with whom to surround Carmelo Anthony or Amar’e Stoudemire and back. Had to return the elite. I saw one that, moreover, played as a point guard and could close the circle.

After years of unsuccessful searching, something may have changed during last summer. And that landing Jalen Brunson in the Knicks was a structural move that called for readopt pieces that would switch up the roles of players like Julius Randle or RJ Barrett, and provide a 26-year-old player with blocks, The one who besides being very good, understands in a special way, how to make things happen around him, is also very good. And the nuances can be decisive.

“His best resource is his brain,” said Tom Thibodeau, Knicks coach, of course. “I can’t run the track in two seconds and I don’t have great physical condition either, so I have to be smart,” explained the player himself. The fact is, Brunson has behaved like this while playing chess on the basketball court for as long as he can remember.

In three college years with Villanova, he won two titles. He was already experienced among novices. And where his diminutive size (1.85m tall) or lack of physical explosiveness might put the brakes on his potential career in the NBA, a league of fireballs on the perimeter, his intelligence and deck of resources are meant to be springboards.

During his first year in Dallas, he teamed up with Dirk Nowitzki—who was facing his final year as a professional—and with Luka Doncic—who, like him, was making his league debut. And how he managed his coexistence with both already shows the kind of player he was and still is.

The German legend didn’t know it then, but Brunson, whose height made it apparently impossible to play in the low post and near the rim, spent part of his high school years trying to replicate German’s peaks in those areas. . If most insiders in their youth want to be treated like outsiders, the opposite was true with Brunson. It was a bit ‘doing it big’.

It was an advanced mastery for Brunson to match with Dirks in how to squeeze any resources out of any area of ​​the track. Thibodeau explained a few weeks ago, “He’s proven everything at a fundamental level.” That’s why he feels comfortable and in fact decisive at the point of converting calls, from anywhere in the attack casual laborerThe shot from the hoop 3 meters or less is pure dynamite (he led the NBA in those shots last year and is among the elite once again this year).

With Doncic, for his part, he was soon smart enough to understand that the Slovenian was “something else” and that the best thing to do, to make room for himself, was to adapt to his command and life for him. Had to make it as simple as possible. track. , It would go like this: Brunson has been the best complement to Luca in the four years he’s been in Dallas. Until his level reached the last campaign, it was impossible to ignore for any franchise that needed context in one’s position. That way he would arrive on the Knicks with a guaranteed $100 million contract over four years in hand.

In New York, he is commanding (the fourth player in the entire NBA with the ball in his hands the longest per game), sporty and assertive. And it acts as a rudder on which the collective meaning rests. Thibodeau transfers his leadership to point guard and thus Brunson instructs and executes within a system even in squares, even without the ideal offensive location (the Knicks shoot from three points). being one of the five worst teams, making it difficult to be productive) ), allowing franchises to compete.

At the halfway point of the course, New York holds a positive record and is one of six teams to have one of the ten most efficient teams in the NBA in both defense and offense. A good pillar on which to build the competitive stability they so dream of. Great traits in reality so that the presence in the qualifiers becomes real and -dream-habitual.

Perhaps, deep down, a good compass was enough not only to know exactly where one was or how far one wanted to go, but also to figure out how to get there without fire.

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