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Knicks' new, $104 million point guard Jalen Brunson a 'home run signing,' says ESPN's Mark Jackson

Scott Davis   

Knicks' new, $104 million point guard Jalen Brunson a 'home run signing,' says ESPN's Mark Jackson
  • ESPN analyst and former NBA guard Mark Jackson called the New York Knicks' signing of Jalen Brunson a "home run."
  • Jackson called Brunson a winner and "culture-changer" who should help the Knicks improve this season.

The New York Knicks made one of the biggest moves of the NBA off-season, signing 25-year-old point guard Jalen Brunson to a four-year, $104 million contract.

ESPN analyst and former NBA point guard Mark Jackson approves of the city's newest lead ball-handler.

Speaking to Insider while promoting his involvement in the documentary "NYC Point Gods" about legendary New York City-born point guards, Jackson called the Brunson signing a "home run."

"I had the privilege of playing with his dad, Rick, when I was on the New York Knicks and to watch Jalen grow," Jackson said. "He's a winner. He's a culture-changer. He's a guy that competes on a nightly basis and a true professional and a class act. So, I think it was a home-run signing for the Knicks and a step forward. They got better over the course of the off-season."

Brunson is coming off a season in which he averaged 16 points, four rebounds, and four assists for the Dallas Mavericks. He had a breakout in the playoffs this spring, averaging 21.6 points over 18 games, including back-to-back 30-point games in the first round against the Utah Jazz while the Mavs were without Luka Doncic.

As documented in "NYC Point Gods," which premieres July 29 on Showtime, New York City point guards have often had a combination of flash and grit representative of the city. Jackson, a New York native who possessed both on the court, believes Brunson has those same qualities that will help him fit in.

"He's been a winner since he's been born," Jackson said.

Furthermore, Jackson applauded Brunson's growth, noting that it's often difficult for the children of professional athletes to break through.

"It's tough to be a kid of a professional athlete and the demand and the expectation that's put on you," Jackson said. "And he has not disappointed. He carries it the right way."

Brunson was a known target of the Knicks in the lead-up to free agency, and the team made multiple trades to clear cap space to sign him. The moves made in advance of Brunson's signing seemed so focused that the NBA might 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 the Knicks' team president, 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 hasn't made an All-Star team. Yet the Knicks seem to be operating off a plan to make steady improvements until the time is right to acquire a star that can help launch them toward championship contention.

Jackson openly laughed at the idea of the Knicks winning a championship soon, saying the expectation with Brunson on board should be "improvement."

"Let's win a playoff round. Let's advance in the playoffs. I think it's a process," Jackson said.

Still, as a New Yorker and former Knick himself, Jackson knows the impact a championship would have on the city.

"You think about, Walt Frazier's still walking around. Legendary. You know when he steps 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 Knicks. You're talking about Dave DeBusschere — I can name these guys off the top of the head — Bill Bradley and Dick Barnett, Red Holzman as a coach. You think about the impact. This is '69, this is '72, and we are in 2022. But those guys and the memories that they've 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."


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