Jalen Brunson, after signing his nine-figure contract, can’t escape the chatter of overpaying.
But the Knicks point guard said he’s not letting it affect his focus or his game, either.
“I’m certainly not ignorant of it. It’s impossible to watch,” Brunson said on Old Man and the Three, a podcast with his former teammate JJ Reddick. “So that’s the first thing. I’m honored to have the opportunity to join this club so whatever the number is. But it doesn’t matter what the number is, nothing changes. Nothing for me. Changed. I think the day I agreed to the terms, before I did any of that, I got mine. Weightlifting, shooting.
“The day I agreed to the terms, that was it. Do my work, work later. I’ve always been this way. I don’t intend to change. It doesn’t bother me. I’m going to be the same person. I’ve been, no matter what. It doesn’t matter what anyone says. I’m going to be me and I’m not too worried about it.
That number brings Brunson’s annual average salary to nearly $26 million over four years, a 1,700 percent increase over his previous contract. Although Brunson showed star potential last season — especially during the playoffs — the $104 million contract, which included a player option in Year 4, was more than the market estimated for the second-round pick he was. Was a backup for most of career.
Before last season, the Mavericks could have locked up Brunson on a four-year, $55 million extension. But they never presented it.
Brunson admitted the Knicks’ money was something he couldn’t have considered just a summer ago.
“Not at all. It’s something — we were actually talking about it with my dad, we were on vacation in Jamaica, like a year ago,” Branson said. “As soon as we got there, I remember we were talking the last time we were here about signing an extension as soon as we had the chance. I said, ‘We’ve basically doubled it. ‘
Brunson was eventually offered a $55 million extension by the Mavericks, but was in the midst of his breakout campaign and bet on himself.
“By then, it was too late,” Brunson said. “Business came knocking on the door. At least there was time to look. I had to do my due diligence and look.
That process led Brunson to the Knicks, where he has familiar faces at key positions. Knicks president Leon Rose and coach Tom Thibodeau are close with the Brunson family, which has a long relationship with Rick. The circumstances surrounding Brunson’s signing sparked accusations of tampering, fueled by several reports that a deal was struck just days before the start of free agency.
Mavs owner Mark Cuban said he’ll let the NBA handle it.
“It’s not for us to say,” Cuban said recently. “It’s up to them.”
The Knicks have declined to make Brunson available to local media. But the point guard isn’t hiding from the expectations, which will certainly be higher if the Knicks trade for Donovan Mitchell.
“A goal? No, I don’t think there’s a goal. But there’s definitely going to be an expectation,” Brunson said. “I don’t think target is the right term. But the expectations are definitely going to be there. Knicks fans are die-hard fans. They’re definitely the definition of die-hards. And they’re going to be expecting a lot. Not only From me, but from this team. Just got to go out there and show.”