Jalen Brunson already has landed on the Knicks’ injury report a couple of times this season, albeit without missing a game.
So you know he will do everything he can to be on the court in what amounts to a homecoming for him Tuesday night in Dallas.
The $104 million point guard departed the Knicks’ matinee loss to the 76ers on Christmas with under five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter with what the team is calling a hip injury. Brunson, who came back to the bench a few minutes later but did not reenter the game, has been listed as questionable for Tuesday’s opener of a three-game Texas trip against the Mavericks, his former team.
Brunson toughed it out and remained in the lineup on Nov. 27 against the Grizzlies despite a quad injury, and again on Dec. 14 against the Bulls after suffering a right foot contusion in the previous game.
He signed a four-year deal with the Knicks in July as a free agent after spending his first four NBA seasons with the Mavericks, who presently are in the No. 8 playoff position in the Western Conference at 18-16. The Knicks own the same overall record, but they enter the game in the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
Those respective records include a 121-100 drubbing by Dallas at the Garden, in which Luka Doncic and the Mavs outscored the Knicks 46-15 in the third quarter to obliterate a seven-point halftime deficit.
Of course, Tom Thibodeau made significant alterations to his playing rotation one game later — sending Derrick Rose and Cam Reddish to the bench while increasing the roles of second-year guards Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride. The Knicks responded by winning eight consecutive games before dropping three in a row at home to the Raptors, Bulls and Sixers over the past week to slip to 8-10 this season at the Garden.
“We’re just not doing enough to win right now, and that’s what we have to fix,” Thibodeau said after Sunday’s game. “If we get [defensive] stops, and we can get it into the open floor, that’s usually when we’re at our best.”
The Knicks haven’t played a game this season without their Big 3 of Brunson, Julius Randle and RJ Barrett intact. Each of those three players are averaging at least 20 points per game — led by Randle’s 23.1. The franchise hasn’t had a trio all scoring at least 20 ppg over a full season in its history.
Last season, Randle and Barrett became the first two Knicks to average at least 20 points apiece since Bill Cartwright and Ray Williams in 1979-80. Brunson is posting a career-high 20.2 points and a team-best 6.2 assists against 2.0 turnovers per appearance.
Immanuel Quickley made his lone start of the season Wednesday against Toronto with Grimes sidelined with an ankle injury. Quickley or McBride likely would replace Brunson at the point, with Rose returning to the second-unit rotation, if Brunson is unable to play Tuesday night.
The Knicks didn’t make Brunson available after Sunday’s game and they held no media availability on Monday’s travel day.
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