NBA: Jalen Brunson: a compass for the Knicks | Sports

New York, the city that never sleeps, is often as grateful as it is a cannibal. For the Knicks, with only one playoff presence in the last nine years, the constant media turmoil and massive pressure from the environment often end up eating away at their reality. The franchise lives this century in the dark, having won only one playoff in the final phase (2013) in more than twenty years. And the scar remains visible, to a certain extent because the contrast with the past feeds it.

The Knicks enjoyed a heyday in the 1990s. In fact, with the exception of what they experienced in the seventies (where they won their only two championships so far, in 1970 and 1973), surely that end of the century represented their best memory to hold on to. One in which competing was not an aspiration but a vital state. In that stretch, the team from the Big Apple spent nine consecutive years winning at least one round of the playoffs, reaching the NBA Finals twice (1994 and 1999).

The shadows of the 21st century on the Knicks have not had a single father. Many causes have promoted them. But on the rectangle, the one that ultimately marks the fate of the rest, the absence of a prestigious point guard at a booming moment in his career has tended to be one of the most critical holes. For this reason, when Jeremy Lin’s shooting star burst, unleashing an absolute fever in February 2012, the Knicks social mass did not only see an unexpected new savior with which to surround Carmelo Anthony or Amar’e Stoudemire and return to the elite. I saw one that, in addition, played as a point guard and could close the circle.

After years of unsuccessful search, during the last summer something could change. And it is that the landing of Jalen Brunson in the Knicks was a structural movement called to readapt pieces, altering the roles of players like Julius Randle or RJ Barrett, and provide the block with a 26-year-old player who, in addition to being very good, understands, special way, how to make what surrounds him also very good. And the nuance can be decisive.

“His best resource is his brain,” said Tom Thibodeau, Knicks coach, this same course. “I can’t run the track in two seconds and I don’t have spectacular physical conditions either, so I have to be astute”, the player himself clarified. The reality is that Brunson behaved like this, 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 a veteran among novices. And where his small size (1.85 meters tall) or lack of physical explosiveness could put brakes on his possible career in the NBA, a league of fireballs in the perimeter, his intelligence and deck of resources have meant a springboard.

During his first year in Dallas, he coincided with Dirk Nowitzki –who was facing his last year as a professional- and with Luka Doncic –who, like him, was making his debut in the League-. And how he managed his coexistence with both already reveals what kind of player he was and still is.

The German legend didn’t know it then, but Brunson, whose height was apparently impossible to play in the low post and near the rim, spent part of his high school years trying to replicate the German’s peaks in those areas. If in youth most interiors want to behave like exteriors, with Brunson the opposite was true. He was a little ‘doing big things’.

Matching up with Dirk was for Brunson an advanced mastery in how to squeeze any resource in any area of ​​the track. “He has perfected everything at the fundamental level,” Thibodeau explained a few weeks ago. That is why he feels comfortable and is actually decisive from any space in the attack, to the point of converting the call floaterelevation shot 3 meters or less from the hoop, in pure dynamite (he led the NBA in success in those shots last year and is once again among the elite this year).

With Doncic, for his part, he was smart enough to soon understand that that Slovenian was “something else” and that the best thing, to make room for himself, was to adapt to his command and make life as simple as possible for him on the track. . This is how it would be: Brunson has been the best complement Luka has had in the four years he has been in Dallas. Until his level reached, the last campaign, levels impossible to ignore for any franchise that needed a reference in one’s position. This is how he would arrive at the Knicks, with a contract of 100 million dollars guaranteed in four years under his arm.

In New York he enjoys command (fourth player in the entire NBA who has the ball in his hands the longest per game), sporty and vocal. And he acts as a rudder on which rests the collective sense. Thibodeau transfers his leadership to the point guard and thus Brunson directs and in sections also executes within a system that, even without the ideal offensive space (the Knicks are one of the five worst teams shooting from three points, which makes it difficult to be productive), allows to the franchise to compete.

Halfway through the course, New York maintains a positive record and is one of the six teams that has both its defense and its attack among the ten most efficient in the NBA. A good pillar on which to build the competitive sustainability that they dream of so much. Great symptom in reality so that the presence in the qualifiers becomes real and -the dream- habitual.

Perhaps, deep down, a good compass was enough not only to really know where one is or how far one wants to go, but also to figure out how to achieve it without fire.

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