Kenny Smith Explains Why Knicks Remain Hot Despite Jalen Brunson’s Cold Start

Knicks star Jalen Brunson with his father Rick Brunson

Getty Jalen Brunson #11 of the New York Knicks talks with his father, New York Knicks assistant coach Rick Brunson, during the second half against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Two-time NBA champion Kenny Smith perfectly summed up how the New York Knicks were able to go up 2-0 against the Philadelphia 76ers despite their star Jalen Brunson shooting under 30% in the first two games.

“It’s the [Knicks] system,” Smith said on “Inside the NBA” following the Knicks 104-101 comeback win in Game 2 on April 22. Coach [Tom] Thibodeau has put in a great system where guys could flourish regardless of the outcome.”

Smith, a former high school basketball star in New York, likened Thibodeau’s system to another team sport where there are only a handful of superstars.

“You have other guys who can fit in kind of like a football setting,” Smith continued. “When you have a football team, there are certain plays and you just kind of can be able to put certain guys in to make sure it happens if you have quality players. The Knicks have quality players in a great system. They never feel rattled because I feel the system that the Knicks have now is they don’t play that traditional pick and roll and only spot-up guys. It allows people to kind of tap into their superpowers. So it allows you to be comfortable tap into your superpowers even when your best players not playing the best.”

The Knicks have withstood the lengthy absences of three starters — Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and OG Anunoby — in the regular season to finish the second-best record in the East.

In the first two games of the playoffs, the Randle-less Knicks have six players averaging in double figures. In contrast, the Sixers have only three players putting up double-digit scoring with Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey combining for 65.5 of their 102.5-point average in Games 1 and 2.

Josh Hart’s Dominant Series

Josh Hart has been the Knicks’ best player in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs.

Hart is the Knicks’ second-leading scorer, averaging 21.5 points behind Brunson’s 23.0 points. He’s also leading both teams in 3-point accuracy (53.3%) and rebounding (14.0) per game.

The do-it-all forward is also the Knicks co-leader in steals with Donte DiVincenzo (1.5) while also averaging 2.5 assists and 1.0 blocks.

His crucial steal on a fallen Maxey in the closing seconds led to DiVincenzo’s game-winning 3-pointer.

“It was crazy, it was hectic, but at that point we had nothing to lose,” Hart told reporters. “Got to get as physical as we can and it panned out.”

Knicks Players Defend Tom Thibodeau

Smith’s praise of Thibodeau came on the heels of Thibodeau getting voted as the coach players around the league would least like to play for in The Athletic’s Anonymous Player Poll.

“[Expletive], that’s all I have to say,” DiVincenzo said, per New York Post. “A lot of guys don’t play for Thibs. I play for Thibs. On the outside, looking in you have a certain viewpoint. When you are inside and play for Thibs, like I said, it’s [expletive].”

One voter said “he’s too old” for Thibodeau’s hard practices while another one claimed, “He’s playing everyone 48 minutes.”

“Man these dudes soft,” Hart wrote in the comments section of the NBA on ESPN’s Instagram post about the poll.