Mavericks GM Sounds off on Jalen Brunson’s Knicks Exit

Nico Harrison, Mavericks

Getty Nico Harrison, Mavericks

It is not an easy thing, losing a talented NBA guard that the organization groomed, helping him go from a second-round pick four years ago to the brink of stardom after a standout postseason. But that’s what happened this summer to the Mavericks, as point guard Jalen Brunson bolted to the Knicks on a hefty four-year, $104 million contract.

While the experience was disappointing, for second-year general manager Nico Harrison, it was hardly a shock considering the depth of connections that Brunson had in New York. He laughed during an interview when asked if Brunson’s decision was surprising.

“That he went to New York?” Harrison said. “Nah, you look at the relationship with who he has in New York. It’s not surprising. Not at all.”

Brunson’s father, former NBA player Rick Brunson, was hired by the Knicks as an assistant coach before the team signed Jalen Brunson. Rick Brunson’s connections with coach Tom Thibodeau go back to the pair’s roots in Salem, Mass., where Thibodeau played and coached for Salem State and Brunson played for Salem High.

Brunson’s agent, too, is Sam Rose, the son of Knicks president Leon Rose, who has known the younger Brunson since he was a kid. No wonder Harrison was not surprised.

Mavs Will Need Help Replacing Brunson

More pertinent to the Mavericks going forward is how they handle the departure of Brunson and whether there is enough on the roster to make up for the offensive punch he provided. Brunson averaged 16.3 points per game during the season and sparkled with 21.6 points per game in the playoffs.

He has been very efficient as a scorer in his time in the NBA, shooting 49.4% from the field and 37.3% from the 3-point line. But the Mavericks could not keep up with the family ties, or the money, Brunson had in New York.

“You lose a talent like Brunson, it’s definitely a blow,” Harrison said. “But we’ve been through it before. We knew it was a possibility that could happen. We did as good a job as you could do with anticipating something like this actually happening.”

Hardaway on Track for Return

The Mavericks expect that guard Spencer Dinwiddie will get a bigger role in Brunson’s absence, and that some of the offense can be made up with the addition of forward Christian Wood, acquired from Houston in a trade this summer.

Harrison also pointed out that the Mavericks will be getting back Tim Hardaway Jr., who had surgery to fix a fracture in his foot in January and played only 42 games last year, missing all the postseason.

He was averaging 14.2 points when he was injured, though he was struggling on his 3-point tries, making only 33.9% on the year. He had made 39.4% over his previous two seasons with the Mavs.

“You’re going to get a lot of scoring that we lost from JB,” Harrison said of Hardaway. “He’s a big-time 3-point shot maker. He can score the ball. And he can play defense, too. I call him an addition, even though he was with our team. But we didn’t have him [for most of last season], so it’s like a new addition.”

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