Jalen Brunson delivers gut punch to Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks
By Tyler Watts
The Dallas Mavericks let Jalen Brunson walk in free agency last summer. There was plenty of talk about the Knicks overpaying him after the talented 26-year-old got a four-year deal worth $104 million, but JB has silenced those critics with his play in New York. He has taken his game to another level, including scoring 23.8 points per game on 48.9 percent shooting from the field and 41.1 percent on his 3-point attempts.
Fans witnessed his breakout in Dallas, and he just keeps getting better. Brunson is a master at creating space and nailing difficult shots. He helped the Mavs reach the conference finals in 2022, and he again made it clear that he wanted to stay in Dallas in a recent feature written by Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes. It was the Mavericks decision-makers that did not think he was a necessary piece to building a title contender around Luka Doncic.
The Mavericks front office deserves all the blame for Brunson's departure. His on-court production in New York has been spectacular, but it may have something else that made him one of the most important pieces in Dallas. Here is a look at how JB bringing up that he wanted to stay was an even harder gut punch after Luka Doncic’s recent comments.
Jalen Brunson delivers a gut punch to Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks
Brunson made it clear that he was willing to accept the four-year extension worth $55 million from the Mavericks last season, but Dallas held out to see what happened at the trade deadline. Their front office had the chance to sign a key piece for well-below market value, but chasing superstars came back to bite the Mavs again. They wanted a bigger fish but ended up going home completely hungry.
Brunson's on-court production made has made it a blow, but it was something Luka said after the Mavs’ loss to the shorthanded Hornets on March 24 that took it to another level. See Doncic's quote below.
"It’s really frustrating. I think you can see it with me on the court. Sometimes, I don't feel it’s me. I'm just being out there, you know? I used to have really fun smiling on court, but it's just been so frustrating for a lot of reasons, not just basketball."
It was a surprising moment from Doncic as he is usually stoic and a man of few words in his press conferences. LD declined to comment on what else was wrong, but it does not take Sherlock Holmes to figure out the vibes are no longer immaculate in Dallas.
Owners, general managers, and fans sometimes forget that these are people on the court. They are incredibly talented and can do seemingly impossible things, but they have lives outside of basketball. Hopefully, all is well with Luka in those aspects, but this may have been where Dallas needed Jalen Brunson the most. He was a fantastic teammate and the leader of the group. Brunson is friends with Luka and the duo spent four years forging a strong bond that paid off in a run to the conference finals.
The analytics models might say Brunson is too short, and he takes too many difficult shots, but hasn’t JB defined the odds since his middle school days? Brunson was tremendous on the court and off of it. His teammates loved him, and he always improved the vibe around the team.
The Dallas Mavericks no longer have that player. Luka Doncic lost his three best friends as Boban Marjanovic was shipped to Houston and Dorian Finney-Smith went to Brooklyn in the trade for Kyrie Irving. Dallas built their run last season on defense, chemistry, and communication, and they have none of that right now.
Jalen Brunson has the Knicks in fifth in the Eastern Conference and the vibes in New York seem immaculate. He is in the running for Most Improved Player, and he keeps reminding fans that it was the Dallas Mavericks who did not want to sign him to a long-term deal.
Brunson was phenomenal in Dallas and an easy player to root for. Hopefully, he continues to improve with the Knicks. The Mavericks are in shambles and could miss the Play-In Tournament. Hearing JB rehash the front office’s mistakes from this offseason is the last thing MFFLs need right now.
The Dallas Mavericks have eight games left in the regular season, and they could still move up to sixth in the Western Conference, but they are going to have to get on a roll starting on Sunday afternoon in Charlotte. Can Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving lead them to it? Stay tuned to find out.