Damian Lillard Sounds off on Knicks’ Jalen Brunson Amid ‘1A Star’ Criticisms

Jalen Brunson, Damian Lillard, Knicks

Getty Jalen Brunson #11 of the New York Knicks shoots during the fourth quarter of the game against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Against Giannis Antetokounmpo, the prototype 1A star in today’s NBA, Jalen Brunson drove home his point.

Brunson’s 38 points carried the New York Knicks to a 129-122 victory on Christmas Day over Eastern Conference heavyweight Milwaukee Bucks for their first win in four tries this season.

Damian Lillard, a small guard like Brunson who was a 1A star in Portland before coming to Milwaukee to become Antetokounmpo’s sidekick, weighed in on the recent ESPN debate whether Brunson can carry the Knicks to a championship.

“Everybody’s gonna have their opinion,” Lillard told reporters in the Bucks locker room following their loss to Brunson’s Knicks. “But we go out there and play. It’s because a lot of things have been said in history that have been proven wrong, but I think in this case, I guess [Becky Hammon] has a point if you look at the times that has happened and the times that it had a chance to happen and didn’t.”

“But at the end of the day, man, you just never know how anything is gonna play out. You never know what’s gonna, what’s gonna happen in the end. We’re in a position that we’re in and we’re at the level that we’re at, because of how we believe and, that’s just what it is. Everybody on the outside is gonna have something to say: what can be done, what can’t be done, but you truly never know because s— happens.”

Jalen Brunson Is ‘Too Small’ to Carry Knicks

Two-time WNBA coach Becky Hammon recently said Brunson is “too small” to carry the Knicks into the elite tier in the Eastern Conference.

“My philosophy, if your best player is small, you’re not winning [championships],” Hammon said on Thursday, December 21, on “NBA Today.

Hammon has the history on her side.

Only Stephen Curry (Golden State) and Isaiah Thomas (Detroit) are the players who stood 6’3 or smaller to have carried their teams to an NBA championship over the last 40 years.

Brunson’s Knicks are knocking on the door of the elite group in the Eastern Conference currently occupied by the Bucks, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers.

“They’re not getting into that tier,” Hammons said of the Knicks. “They don’t have enough personnel. They don’t have the manpower that they need to hang with those guys.”

“I think you’re going to get a consistent team like they’ve been a pretty good team. They’re well-coached. They’re going to be on their defensive game but at the end of the day, they don’t have a dude. You got to have a dude — a 1A dude and they’re missing that.”

Jalen Brunson Seizes New York Opportunity

Brunson, generously listed at 6-foot-2, is putting together another All-Star-worthy season a year after his snub. He has taken another leap, especially with his outside shot — hitting a career-high 46% on 6.4 3-point attempts — to become a three-level scorer.

“He’s had a lot of growth, even from Dallas playing against them a lot in the Western Conference,” Lillard observed. “And then he comes into this situation and a lot of guys would benefit in his league from opportunity.”

“Sometimes we don’t get to see the rest of the players in his league because they don’t have the same opportunity. That’s not always the case, but with him, they played through him. He has every opportunity and he’s taken full advantage of it.”

Against Lillard and the Bucks this season, Brunson is tearing them up with 35.8 points on 54% shooting with 5.8 assists and 3.8 rebounds through their first four meetings.




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