source – The Denver Post



It was over before it started.

Jalen Brunson called off his meeting with the Mavericks and agreed to sign with the Knicks on a four-year deal worth around $104-$110 million, depending on bonuses, after the moratorium is lifted, a source confirmed Thursday. The news was expected after the Knicks used draft picks to clear the cap space for Brunson, who will serve as the point guard for a squad that hopes to climb back to relevance after last season’s dumpster fire.

The Mavericks declined to offer Brunson a contract extension before the season, which came back to bite them in the summer. They pitched $106 million, according to a source, but they never got another face-to-face meeting despite team representatives Mark Cuban, Jason Kidd, Michael Finley and Nico Harrison traveling to New York.

Word of Brunson’s firm commitment to the Knicks leaked about an hour before free agency started, backing up the sentiment from earlier this week that this partnership was fait accompli.

For Brunson, the appeal of New York is partly about the opportunity to be the lead guard, which is something not possible in Dallas next to Luka Doncic. He’s also joining a franchise with familiar faces. Brunson’s father, Rick, is a Knicks assistant coach and his agent, Sam Rose, is the son of Knicks team president Leon Rose.

Although Brunson is an upgrade over the mishmash of point-guard rotations over the last few years, he’s not an instant path to Knicks contention. Many around the league consider the contract an overpay, a critique that will be forgotten or amplified, depending on the team’s performance.

Either way, Leon Rose is firmly under the microscope after restructuring his roster and assets for this big offer. He sacrificed six second-round picks and swapped for a less desirable first rounder to clear the cap space for Brunson, not to mention punting the No. 11 pick this year (that also helped clear cap room for free agency).

Since Tom Thibodeau’s stance is always “get me better players,” it’s a safe bet he endorsed the acquisition of Brunson, who won two NCAA titles at Villanova and helped the Mavericks to the conference finals. Brunson’s father has been an assistant under Thibodeau on three different teams.

Even with the Brunson signing, the Knicks had enough cap to maneuver a two-year, $16 million deal for backup center Isaiah Hartenstein. Still, the easiest road to major upgrading is via trade. They own 11 first-round picks in the next seven years, with five acquired via trades and protected.

Rose did not use them for All-Star point guard Dejounte Murray, who was traded Wednesday from the Spurs to the Hawks for an expiring contract and three unprotected first rounders.

Brunson’s arrival should boost the offense, particularly in the pick-and-roll, but it presents important questions about roles. The Knicks already have two ball-dominant players – Julius Randle and RJ Barrett – who can shine individually but haven’t meshed as a two-man unit. Will Randle now give up the ball and his isolation plays? Is Randle effective in a lesser role? Will this help or hurt Barrett’s bid to become an All-Star?

Although many Knicks fans dismissed Randle after last season’s debacle, it’s important to remember he’s beginning a max extension this season. Barrett is now eligible for his own extension.

So the Knicks have the makings of a core and a new point guard. They also need to be much better than last season.

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