Doubt in the New York Knicks apparently doesn't run in the Van Gundy family.
Jeff Van Gundy, the franchise's head coach in their last consistent glory days, lauded one of the newest wearers of blue and orange in comments to the New York Post. The nine-figure deal that made Dallas Mavericks postseason hero Jalen Brunson a New Yorker has drawn a polarizing response in NBA circles but count Van Gundy amongst its supporters.
“He brings a level of competitive spirit, intelligence, and seriousness that any team in this league absolutely needs,” the current ESPN/ABC game analyst told The Post. “I think what he is, is a player of significance in the NBA. What he’s always done is improve, and serious players incrementally improve their entire careers, particularly throughout their prime years, and he’s just starting to hit his prime."
Brunson is coming off a career-best season, his fourth and final campaign in Dallas. He truly rose to the scene with a dominating playoff performance, one headlined by a de facto takeover when franchise face Luka Doncic missed the first three games of the Mavericks' playoff run with an injury.
Van Gundy was quick to admit that, like fellow admirer Jay Wright, his comments have a hint of bias: he has held a long friendship with the Brunson family, which includes partial oversight of patriarch Rick's NBA career. The elder Brunson spent three years with Van Gundy's Knicks (the two collaborating on a run to the NBA Finals in 1999) and has returned to the Knicks' bench as an assistant coach.
Van Gundy, however, praised the fact that Brunson seems to embrace every opportunity to get better and refuses to coast on familial reputation or prior accomplishments.
“I can’t overemphasize enough that his serious approach to the game, and to improvement, and to winning, is absolutely what a team needs that is coming off a challenging year," Van Gundy said. "You don’t find too many of those guys out there in free agency that you can get."
"This is an incredible opportunity for him to also challenge himself to be a starting point guard in this league on an every night basis. I think he’s going to respond exceptionally well.”