When Jalen Brunson’s name was missing from the NBA‘s announced list of All-Star reserves nearly two weeks ago, fans reacted as if it was an affront to the entire New York Knicks organization. Sure, Julius Randle had found his way back into the mix, but Brunson’s exclusion was a gut punch given the role he played in making the Knicks releveant again.
As of this writing, Brunson is averaging 24 points, six assists and nearly four rebounds per contest while shooting 48.5% from the field and 41.7% from three-point range. In other words, he’s logging All-Star-worthy numbers while playing for a winning team in the league’s biggest market.
Despite those efforts, he missed the first cut as a reserve and then missed out for a second time when the league office announced its first batch of injury replacements.
Flash forward to now, though, and the 26-year-old Brunson may finally be on the verge of getting that elusive All-Star nod. At the least, a pathway toward securing a ticket to Salt Lake City — where the All-Star Game will take place on Sunday, February 19 — appears to have opened up..
Knicks’ Jalen Brunson May Have to Step in for Injured Bulls Star DeMar DeRozan
Although no decision has been made as of yet, Boston Celtics wing Jaylen Brown’s All-Star spot may be in jeopardy after the baller suffered a facial fracture recently. And while Brunson could be a factor there, many believe that Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden is the more likely selection to replace Brown.
For the year, Harden is averaging 21.5 points, 10.8 assists, 6.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals with 45-39-86 shooting splits. Meanwhile, Philly is six-hand-a-half games ahead of New York in the conference standings.
Even if Harden does end up subbing in for Brown, though, a new injury on the East’s side could open up another door for Brunson. DeMar DeRozan was forced out of the Chicago Bulls’ Monday loss to the Orlando Magic due to a thigh strain. And he later revealed that he has been dealing with discomfort for several weeks.
No determination has been made on his All-Star Game status at this point, but he has been ruled out of the Bulls’ Wednesday bout with the Indiana Pacers at a minimum.
Said Bulls coach Billy Donovan, via NBC Sports Chicago: “I don’t think it’s significant. But we’ll see how he progresses and how he feels… He knows his body well. He’s always very conscientious about taking care of it. We hope with treatment and how diligent he is, he’ll progress. But there’s enough discomfort there for him where he’s having a hard time moving and cutting and jumping.”
Brunson, meanwhile, scored 40 points on 15-of-21 shooting during New York’s blowout win over the Brooklyn Nets on Monday.
Josh Hart Credits Tom Thibodeau for Three-Point Uptick
One of the big questions surrounding the Knicks’ trade-deadline acquisition of Josh Hart was whether or not the veteran wing would be able to rediscover his three-point shot. Although he began the campaign as a career 35% marksman from deep, his percentage had dropped to 30.4% with the Portland Trail Blazers this season.
Since descending upon the Big Apple, however, Hart has connected on six of his nine long-range attempts. And he’s giving his new coach, Tom Thibodeau, credit for empowering his perimeter offense.
“Just have the ultimate green light,” Hart said of his new situation, via The Athletic’s Fred Katz. “It gives me that confidence so now those catch-and-shoot shots are more in rhythm. I have confidence.”