- ESPN analyst and former NBA guard Mark Jackson called the signing of Jalen Brunson by the New York Knicks a “home run”.
- Jackson called Brunson a winner and a “culture changer” who should help the Knicks improve this season.
- Jackson said the Knicks are far from a championship, but winning in New York creates legends.
The New York Knicks made one of the NBA’s biggest offseason moves, signing 25-year-old point guard Jalen Brunson to a four-year, $104 million deal.
ESPN analyst and former NBA point guard Mark Jackson approves of the city’s new lead point guard.
Speaking to Insider while promoting his involvement in the “NYC Point Gods” documentary about legendary New York-born point guards, Jackson called the Brunson signing a “home run.”
“I had the privilege of playing with his dad, Rick, when I was at the New York Knicks and watching Jalen grow up,” Jackson said. “He’s a winner. He’s a culture changer. He’s a guy who competes every night and a real professional and a class act. So I think he was a home signing for the Knicks and a step forward. They’ve gotten better in the offseason.”
Brunson is coming off a season in which he averaged 16 points, four rebounds and four assists for the Dallas Mavericks. He made a playoff breakthrough this spring, averaging 21.6 points in 18 games, including back-to-back 30-point games in the first round against the Utah Jazz when the Mavs were without Luka Doncic.
As documented in “NYC Point Gods,” which premieres July 29 on Showtime, New York point guards have often had a combination of flash and grit representative of the city. Jackson, a New York native who had both on the court, believes Brunson has the same qualities that will help him fit in.
“He’s been a winner since he was born,” Jackson said.
Additionally, Jackson applauded Brunson’s growth, noting that it’s often difficult for the children of professional athletes to break through.
“It’s tough being the child of a professional athlete and the demands and expectations that come with you,” Jackson said. “And he didn’t disappoint. He wears it the right way.”
Brunson was a known target for the Knicks looking ahead to free agency, and the team made several trades to free up space to sign him. The actions taken prior to Brunson’s signing seemed so targeted that the NBA could investigate the Knicks for tampering. The Knicks reportedly hired Jalen’s father, Rick, to the coaching staff in June. Meanwhile, Leon Rose, who serves as team president for the Knicks, was previously Jalen’s agent – a role now filled by Rose’s son, Sam.
Some in the NBA world criticized Brunson’s contract, calling it excessive for a guard who didn’t make an All-Star team. Still, the Knicks appear to be operating on a plan to make steady improvements until the time is right to acquire a star who can help launch them to the championship.
Jackson openly laughed at the prospect of the Knicks winning a championship soon, saying waiting with Brunson on board should be an “improvement.”
“Let’s win a playoff round. Let’s move forward in the playoffs. I think it’s a process,” Jackson said.
Still, as a New Yorker and a former Knick himself, Jackson knows the impact a championship would have on the city.
“You think, Walt Frazier is still walking around. Legendary. You know when he walks into a room because he won a championship with the Knicks,” Jackson said. “Willis Reed will always be remembered because he won a championship with the Knicks. You talk about Dave DeBusschere – I can name these guys off the top of my head – Bill Bradley and Dick Barnett, Red Holzman as a coach You think about the impact. This is 1969, this is 1972, and this is 2022. But these guys and the memories they placed in the hearts of so many New Yorkers will last forever. And I think that’s the impact when you do it here. If you do it in New York, there’s no better place to do it.