‘I really did want to stay’


‘I really did want to stay’

Before Jalen Brunson became a star with the New York Knicks, the Dallas Mavericks could have signed him to a four-year, $55 million contract extension, Brunson said on an episode of “All The Smoke” with Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes.

“I really did want to stay in Dallas,” Brunson said.

Brunson was eligible for that extension in the 2021 offseason and throughout the 2021-22 season, his fourth in Dallas. According to Brunson (both in an interview with Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes 11 months ago and in this recent one) and Brunson’s father, Rick (in an interview with ESPN’s Tim MacMahon 22 months ago), he told the Mavericks that he’d be willing to sign that on two occasions: Before the season started and in the first half of the regular season. Both times, they said the Mavericks declined to put the offer on the table.

“I wanted to stay there, I thought I would be there for a long time, and I liked my role there,” Brunson told Jackson and Barnes. “It’s funny because my agent was like, ‘You can do so much, you can get more, you can get more.’ I’m saying, ‘Well, I want to be safe. I’m not trying to gamble right now. This is not something you really gamble with if it’s out there.’ But [the Mavericks] were like, ‘We want to see where we’re at by like 20, 25 games into the season.’ We were like, ‘All right, well, if you’re not going to do it, I kind of don’t want to do it until after the season. I’m not trying to think about this [during the season].’

“So there was a period where Luka [Doncic] went out and I started to start. I was playing really well, I think I was averaging like 20 and like six, maybe, whatever. It was about that 20-, 25-[game] mark. And so we went back, we’re like, ‘Hey, if the deal is there, we’re thinking about it.’ Like, ‘I’ll do it, like right now.’ Still, it was no. It wasn’t a hard no — it was just like, ‘We want to see, we want to see.'”

As the trade deadline approached, Brunson said he figured he was about to get traded. Dallas did not trade him, and after the deadline passed, it put the four-year, $55 million deal on the table. But this was too late.

“I was like, ‘No, I think I’ve outgrown that now,'” Brunson said. “Personally, that’s what I thought.”

In the 2022 playoffs, with Doncic sidelined, Brunson led Dallas to wins against the Utah Jazz in Game 2 (in which he scored 41 points on 15-for-25 shooting) and Game 3 (in which he scored 31 points on 12-for-22 shooting) of the first round. The Mavericks went on to win that series and beat the No. 1-seeded Phoenix Suns in seven games before the Golden State Warriors eliminated them in the conference finals. The night their season ended, in an interview on Bally Sports Southwest, owner Mark Cuban told Marc Stein, “We can pay him more than anybody. And I think he wants to stay, and that’s more important.” Brunson saw the clip on Twitter.

“So he says that in an interview, whatever, like literally right after the game,” Brunson told Jackson and Barnes. “So I’m thinking, ‘OK.’ After that, it was just like crickets. From my point of view — I can’t speak to anyone else or my agent’s — from my point of view, it was crickets.”

.@jalenbrunson1 details his last season in Dallas. He was ready to sign a 4-year $55 million contract, but the Mavs front office balked.😳

Full episode of All The Smoke with JB drops tomorrow on our YouTube. pic.twitter.com/whxbOrez0w

— All the Smoke Productions (@allthesmokeprod) February 21, 2024
Cuban sees things differently. Last April, he blamed Rick for the guard’s departure and said that Dallas didn’t have a chance to negotiate with Brunson in free agency. “Knowing the numbers now, I would’ve paid it in a heartbeat, but he wouldn’t have come anyway, Cuban told ESPN. He also claimed, per the Dallas Morning News, that, two days before the 2022 trade deadline, Rick had. Through agent Aaron Mintz, he demanded that the Mavericks dump salary so they could immediately renegotiate and extend Brunson’s contract.

That July, New York signed Brunson to a four-year, $104 million contract that now looks like a bargain. The previous month, it had hired Rick as an assistant coach. When Rick was a player, he was the first client of agent Leon Rose, who is now the president of the Knicks. Rose is Brunson’s godfather. In December 2022, the league took a second-round pick away from New York as punishment for having conversations with Brunson before the official start of free agency.

This season, Brunson is averaging 27.6 points on 59.6% true shooting (with a 29.2% usage rate), 3.8 rebounds, and 6.5 assists. He is one of the most popular human beings in the city of New York, and he probably should have started this past Sunday’s All-Star Game. On “All The Smoke,” when Jackson said Brunson’s decision to sign with the Knicks was the “best move you made,” Brunson nodded his head.

“Best move,” he said.

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