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Knicks' Jalen Brunson Discusses Handling Pressure of Playing in New York

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJuly 22, 2022

AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn, File

New York Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson said he's already started to mentally prepare for the added pressure that comes with playing in New York City.

Brunson, who signed a four-year, $104 million contract with the Knicks in free agency, discussed playing in the country's biggest media market for one of the NBA's most rabid fanbases Friday on The Old Man and The Three podcast (20:45 mark of video below):

"I mean definitely [I've started to prepare myself]. I mean it wouldn't be smart not to. I'm definitely thinking about how everything's going to be; best-case scenarios, worst-case scenarios. But I think no matter what's going on, I just gotta own it.

"If I play bad, I gotta own it. I gotta be better. If I play well, it's because of my teammates who made it easier for me. I just gotta be a person who's authentic and owns everything that he does. That's, I think, the first step to being a guy who can connect with the fans."

The 25-year-old New Jersey native also carries the burden of trying to fill the Knicks' longstanding void at point guard.

New York has cycled through numerous options at the point in recent years, including Trey Burke, Emmanuel Mudiay, Dennis Smith Jr., Elfrid Payton and Kemba Walker, but no one has emerged as the ultimate solution. Derrick Rose has provided a short-term boost, but at age 33 with an extended injury history, he wasn't going to fill the spot for the long haul.

So Brunson arrives as the Knicks' latest effort to find their offensive sparkplug following two straight impressive seasons with the Dallas Mavericks.

The Villanova product has averaged 14.6 points, 4.2 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.2 threes across 147 appearances since the start of the 2020-21 campaign. He's shot 51.0 percent from the field and 38.7 percent on threes over that span.

He accumulated those numbers despite playing alongside Luka Doncic, who led the NBA in usage rate during the 2021-22 season (37.4 percent, per Basketball Reference). He should receive more consistent offensive touches in New York.

The key question is whether Brunson can maintain his offensive efficiency in a more prominent role without Doncic to soak up the defense's attention.

If he does, the Knicks would appear to have the foundation for a bounce-back year as the two-time college national champion joins a starting lineup that also features Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson, barring any blockbuster moves.

New York has been linked to a possible trade for All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz, per NBA insider Marc Stein, which would obviously shake up the lineup and once again decrease Brunson's offensive role.

Regardless, the Knicks will be expected to make noise in the Eastern Conference. They finished fourth in 2020-21 with a 41-31 record to end a seven-year playoff drought, but they dropped to 37-45 and missed the postseason last year.

Brunson sounds prepared to absorb the pressure of expectations and help lead New York back up the standings.

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