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Knicks’ Jalen Brunson found NBA free agency experience ‘kind of awful’

Jalen Brunson was paid exceedingly well, and he wound up at his preferred destination, but the process wasn’t to his liking. 

“Free agency was kind of awful, how public it got,” the Knicks’ new point guard said. 

Brunson said a lot of things that were reported weren’t true, though he declined to go into specifics. After spending the first four years of his career with the Mavericks, he signed with the Knicks on a four-year, $104 million contract, joining former agent and current team president Leon Rose and his father, Rick Brunson, who was added as an assistant to coach Tom Thibodeau’s staff in June. The NBA is currently investigating the Knicks for tampering, but Brunson said the league hasn’t contacted him. 

“My reaction to the league investigating? I didn’t really have one,” said the 26-year-old southpaw, who earned the big pay day after his breakout postseason in which he averaged 21.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists. “Nothing really to investigate.” 

Playing for the Knicks will be a full-circle experience. As a young kid growing up in southern New Jersey, Brunson attended Knicks games at the Garden — Rick played for them back then — and he spent a lot of time around Thibodeau and Derrick Rose when they were with the Bulls and Rick was an assistant coach. Now they’re all part of the same organization. 

New York Knicks Jalen Brunson (11) when the New York Knicks held their content day
Robert Sabo

“It’s just an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” Brunson said, referring specifically to his dad coaching him with the Knicks. “It’s something you only see in movies and stuff like that. I’m really excited for him to be on the bench.” 

Knicks fans are just as excited about Brunson, who they hope can answer the franchise’s point guard drought. Despite his big contract, Brunson doesn’t believe there is any extra pressure on him to produce. He’s not going to change anything about his preparation or mentality. 

“I think I said this a while ago, I’m not a savior in any way, shape or form,” he said. “I just want to be able to contribute to a team, try to help this team win games.” 

Unlike Brunson, Mitchell Robinson had a blast in free agency, comparing it to his experience in the NBA draft. When he got word of the Knicks’ offer, Robinson was on the beach and celebrated his decision to re-sign for four years and $60 million by going for a swim. 

“I feel like they showed me some loyalty basically,” the 7-footer said. “With that, I have to come out here and play to a level that is the reason they [brought me back].” 

Robinson talked about expanding his offensive game, adding a jump hook and baby jumper to his rim-running, shot-blocking repertoire. His immediate focus, though, is on improving his free throw shooting and conditioning. 

“I don’t feel like I proved myself yet. I still got a lot to do,” Robinson said. “I have a lot to still work on.”