Jalen Brunson wasn’t upset or angry. He was actually happy — for his Knicks teammate — when the All-Star reserves were announced on Thursday night.
“My reaction was for Julius [Randle]. I was very happy for him,” the Knicks’ point guard said, in his first public comments since he was snubbed for the All-Star Game, which will be played Feb. 19 in Salt Lake City. “The way he’s been playing all year [he deserved it]. He’s welcomed me with open arms, and the way he’s been leading this team, he’s been special all year. So I was real excited when I saw that. As for myself, I control what I can control and that’s something I can’t. That’s my mindset.”
Brunson, who missed the win Thursday night over the Heat with a non-COVID-19 illness, fell short of the showcase, despite a fantastic first season with the Knicks. Saturday night was just the latest example of how well he has performed. He scored 41 points on 14-for-19 shooting, added with seven assists and made just one turnover in the Knicks’ crushing 134-128 overtime loss to the Clippers at the Garden.
Brunson did all he could to will the Knicks to victory, carrying them back from a 17-point, fourth-quarter deficit that was undone by Nicolas Batum’s 3-pointer that beat the regulation buzzer. It wasn’t enough in the end, just like his bid for his first All-Star selection.
Brunson lost out to guards Tyrese Haliburton of the Pacers, Jrue Holiday of the Bucks and DeMar DeRozan of the Bulls.
“Obviously, it’s something you strive for individually, but my focus was towards tonight,” he said. “My focus was on the next game.”
It’s that selfless approach, along with his on-court ability, that has endeared Brunson to his new team. He has filled a decades-long hole at point guard for the franchise and is averaging career-bests in points (22.8), assists (6.2) and free-throw percentage (85.3) while shooting a robust 39.4 percent from 3-point range.
“Jalen is happy for his teammates and he’s thrilled [for them], and he wants the team to do well. It’s never about Jalen,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I love his humility. He knows how good he is — he doesn’t need other people to tell him.
“We all should be able to see it. In my eyes, it was pretty clear cut. But maybe I’m biased. I watch him every night and I see the impact he has.”