Free agent guard Jalen Brunson is headed back to Madison Square Garden. 

Brunson, one of the breakout stars in the Dallas Mavericks’ run to the Western Conference final last season, intends to sign a four-year, $110 million contract with the New York Knicks, The Athletic reported Thursday. 

The NBA’s free agency negotiating period began at 6 p.m. ET Thursday. No deals will be official until the beginning of the league year on July 6. 

Brunson, who spent his early childhood in New Jersey and was a part of two NCAA title teams at Villanova, had been widely linked to the Knicks after he and the Mavericks failed to agree to a contract extension last season. 

The Athletic’s report said that Dallas never had the opportunity to make Brunson an offer, further evidence that his relationship with the Mavericks’ front office had been fractured. 

Brunson was chosen by Dallas in the second round of the 2018 draft and played 277 games for the Mavs, starting in 127. 

Last season, Brunson registered career highs by averaging 16.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists.

He scored 21.6 points per game last postseason, including an average of 32.0 points during the first three games of the first round against the Utah Jazz with Luka Doncic sidelined by injury. 

Another high-profile star has opted in to a lucrative contract as the NBA continues to prepare for free agency.

Hot on the heels of Kyrie Irving committing to the Brooklyn Nets, with potential destinations for a move thin on the ground, Russell Westbrook has picked up his option with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Westbrook will be paid $47.1million for the 2022-23 season, making it little surprise his decision was reported on Tuesday.

The 2017 NBA MVP endured a difficult first year in LA – to say the least – but will hope for a fresh start under new Lakers coach Darvin Ham.

Westbrook's huge contract made him extremely difficult to trade, limiting the Lakers' moves this offseason significantly.

The New York Knicks have worked to ensure they are not in the same position, despite similarly being tied to a highly paid underperforming player in Julius Randle.

The Knicks traded away their 11th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft among transactions that included dumping Kemba Walker's contract with the Detroit Pistons.

And the Knicks have also come to an agreement for the Pistons to take on both Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks.

These moves have cleared around $30m in cap space, and the Knicks appear determined to spend that money on Jalen Brunson, the Dallas Mavericks point guard.

Brunson is set to be a target for the Knicks after the free agency period begins on Thursday, and his departure would deal a blow to the Mavs and superstar Luka Doncic.

Dallas reached the Western Conference Finals in 2021-22 and have boosted their roster with a move for Christian Wood from the Houston Rockets.

But Brunson was the team's second man behind Doncic, leaving work to do just to get back to the level they have reached in recent months.

It always feels somewhat presumptuous to talk about an NBA Draft in the immediate aftermath and judge who did well and who did not. Surely, we have to wait to see how things play out and whether players with immense potential are able to fulfil it?

However, what you can do is judge those who, on paper at least, seem to have struck gold and those who appeared to stumble through their Thursday evening and may well have come away disappointed with their haul.

The night started off delightfully chaotically as the Orlando Magic went against the widely predicted number one pick of Jabari Smith Jr and instead brought in Paolo Banchero.

Now the dust has settled after an interesting night, Stats Perform has taken a look at the potential winners and losers of the draft.

Winners

Houston Rockets

The Rockets could probably not believe their luck when the Magic decided to opt for Banchero. The Italian-American would have still been a fine first-round pick, but given the choice it seems like Houston would rather have taken Smith Jr, and they had the chance to do just that.

The youngster was a disruptive defender for Aubern, and clearly has sound fundamentals, a result no doubt of growing up in and around basketball, with his father Jabari Smith Sr a former NBA player himself.

Smith Jr averaged 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists while shooting 42.9 per cent from the floor and 42 per cent from the three-point line in 2021-22, and should dovetail nicely with Alperen Sengun, a first-round pick from last year.

The Rockets also took Tari Eason, a breakout star at LSU, and TyTy Washington, a high-quality and versatile option who was expected to be picked up earlier in the night.

Detroit Pistons

A very similar moment of fortune fell for the Pistons as their top choice Jaden Ivey was surprisingly still available when it came to their number five pick, with the Sacramento Kings instead taking Keegan Murray.

In two seasons at Purdue, Ivey showed himself to be a top-five prospect with a well-rounded game, though questions persist about the consistency of his shooting. He averaged 17.3 points per game last season, though, with a field goal percentage of 46.0.

Detroit were also involved in a three-way trade with the Charlotte Hornets and the New York Knicks. This ended with them procuring Jalen Duren and Kemba Walker in exchange for their 2025 first-round pick, having acquired it as part of the Jerami Grant trade to the Portland Trail Blazers earlier in the week.

Walker is expected to be bought out of his contract and become a free agent, so it looks like sound dealing to essentially trade a first-round pick to get Duren through the door, who averaged 12.0 points and 8.1 rebounds per game for the Memphis Tigers last season.

San Antonio Spurs

Nothing outrageous from the Spurs, but on the face of it, they ended the night with three solid picks.

Jeremy Sochan became the first British player to be picked in NBA Draft in over 10 years. As a freshman at Baylor, Sochan averaged 9.2 points and 6.4 rebounds in 25.1 minutes per game, making 47.4 per cent of his field goal attempts.

As that average suggests, one aspect to his game that could be improved is his shooting, but San Antonio's Chip Engelland is one of the best shooting coaches in the game and could well help the young man who was raised in Milton Keynes, England.

Malaki Branham looks a smart choice as the number 20 pick from Ohio State, with his one college season seeing him average 13.7 points on 49.8 per cent shooting, while Blake Wesley from Notre Dame also has the potential to also be a valuable arrival.

Losers

New York Knicks

After a poor season that felt like it would at least set them up for a productive draft, the Knicks appeared to overthink things at the draft, or underthink them depending on your viewpoint.

They decided to trade their number 11 pick for three future first-round picks, though none that really hold any value.

They managed to get Walker's contract out the door to the Pistons to free up some salary space, seemingly putting all their eggs in the Jalen Brunson basket, or potentially even Kyrie Irving. However, they only saved $9.2m from Walker's contract, which is not a lot considering they gave up one of their first-round picks. 

Who knows if it will pay off, but Knicks fans were almost certainly expecting more.

Washington Wizards

There was nothing particularly wrong with the picks from the Wizards, but as harsh as it may sound, they are in danger of becoming the NBA's dullest team.

A win percentage of 0.427 was down from 0.472 in 2020-21, and it felt like they might need to take a bit of a risk in the draft with their number 10 pick.

Johnny Davis is a fine player, averaging 19.7 points per game for the Wisconsin Badgers last year, the 25th highest in the college game, but someone like Duren could have been a roll of the dice for something to boost that win percentage sometime soon.

Who knows? It could be a sound strategy, but to be frank, it is a strategy that has not been working for the last few years in Washington.

Sacramento Kings

There is some sympathy with the situation the Kings were put in as the extremely obvious pick at four was Ivey, who had expressly said he did not want to go to Sacramento, so they went with Murray instead.

Murray is a fine prospect himself, and arguably a better fit than Ivey for the Kings, but the latter felt like an opportunity to at the very least have significant trade leverage.

Murray did average the fourth-highest points per game average last year with 23.5 for Iowa, while also adding 8.7 rebounds per game, so comes in as a promising addition.

Ivey will inevitably feel like the one who got away if he does what many think he will at Detroit, though, which could bring back memories of when Sacramento failed to take on Luka Doncic in 2018.

Luka Doncic felt it was all about "energy, man" as the Dallas Mavericks put in a much-improved defensive showing to claw their way back into their Western Conference semi-finals series against the Phoenix Suns.

Speaking after the Game 2 defeat to the top-seeded Suns, superstar Doncic described the Mavs' second-half defensive showing as "horrible".

But it was a much different story for a desperate Dallas side on Friday as Doncic and Jalen Brunson starred in a 103-94 win to trim the deficit to 2-1.

Doncic finished with 26 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists and two steals, while Brunson put up a game-high 28 points – six more than he managed over the first two games.

After helping to spoil Chris Paul's 37th birthday and keep the Suns at bay, Doncic explained why he felt the Mavs were more on it from a defensive standpoint.

"Energy, man. The crowd gets you going. The energy and the execution were better. That's what we've got to do every game," he said, in quotes reported by ESPN.

"I knew I had to do better. I knew I could do better. I think I made a big jump on defense this year. The second half (of Game 2) was horrible by me, and I knew I had to get back to my team and play better defense.

"We're going to believe until the end. Somebody's got to get to four wins, and no matter if you're down or you're up, you've got to believe."

Head coach Jason Kidd said after the Game 1 defeat that Doncic did not get enough support from his team-mates. He had a different view this time around.

"Everybody joined the party," Kidd said. 

"They helped out on both ends. Luka was great defensively. He participated, too. It puts us in a different position when that happens."

For Brunson, the target now is maintaining that same standard when Dallas aim to tie things up in Game 4 on Sunday.

"I found a way to bounce back tonight," Brunson said. 

"I just can’t be satisfied with this. Sunday’s going to be another brutal game. I have to bring the same energy, the same intensity, the same everything."

The Dallas Mavericks were united in their appreciation of Jalen Brunson after he scored 31 points in their 126-118 road win against the Utah Jazz to take a 2-1 series lead.

Brunson, coming off a career-high 41 points in Dallas' upset Game 2 win, was terrific once again, hitting 12-of-22 shots and all seven of his free throws, while also dishing five assists and committing only one turnover in 35 minutes.

Those 35 minutes would have been more if he was not forced to leave the floor in the second quarter for a short period of play after a hard hit in the back from Royce O'Neale, but he was able to return and carry his side down the stretch.

While Brunson was at the heart of everything the Mavericks were doing, he told post-game media about how he was inspired by watching his teammates battling while he was receiving treatment on his back.

"I saw how hard the team was playing when I was laying back there," he said. 

"It gave me a little mojo to come back out there and do my thing. We’re all on the same page, we’re all clicking, we’re all talking and communicating."

Mavericks coach Jason Kidd was careful to not get ahead of himself, but he gave praise to his starting backcourt.

"When you look at Spencer [Dinwiddie] and 'JB', those two have the ball, and there's no panic," he said.

"We always believe we're going to make the right play, share the ball on the offensive end, and then help each other on the defensive end – and that's what we did.

"In a hostile environment, against a very good team that's well-coached, we put ourselves in a position to win the game and found a way.

"I just told the guys – we haven’t done anything. They won at our place and now we won here. 

"We need to put this game behind us and figure out what we need to do better."

Dallas forward Maxi Kleber – who is shooting a scorching 14-of-21 from three-point range in the series – then took his turn to pat Brunson on the back, calling him "fun to watch".

"His shot-creating and shot-making has been amazing all season," he said. "But the determination he has coming down the stretch to hit those big shots, and the confidence he has, is just fun to watch."

Far from a sore loser, Jazz coach Quin Snyder also paid respect to the man who has authored two straight losses for a sputtering Utah side.

"[Brunson is] unique in his physical strength and his ability to kind of keep his dribble alive in the lane where he really uses his body," he said.

"He’s able to play with his feet on the floor, so if you do try to come over and help, he has the ability to find people and spray the ball out."

Game 4 will remain in Utah – where Luka Doncic is expected to return – before heading back to Dallas for Game 5.

A remarkable fourth quarter from the Memphis Grizzlies was the catalyst in their 104-95 win on the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves, going up 2-1 in the series.

In the first quarter, in front of their home fans, it appeared that it was going to be all Timberwolves early as they got off to a scorching start, with Patrick Beverley scoring eight of the game's first 12 points as the hosts went up 12-0.

Both Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr collected two personal fouls each in the opening period as the Grizzlies went into the second quarter trailing 39-21. A much-improved defensive effort held the Wolves to 12 points in the second term, though, cutting the margin back to 51-44 at the half.

Memphis were unable to keep that momentum coming out of the break as Minnesota started the third frame on a 28-10 run, pulling away to a 79-54 lead.

But trailing 83-62 with 1:05 to play in the third quarter, the Grizzlies started their run. They would score 21 consecutive points to tie the game at 83-83 as Desmond Bane, Brandon Clarke and Tyus Jones lifted the visitors.

As Karl-Anthony Towns struggled down the stretch – finishing with just eight points and five blocks with five fouls – the Grizzlies were firing on all cylinders, winning the last quarter 37-12 to open their lead up to 10 points for a relatively comfortable final few minutes.

Morant was a disappointing five-of-18 from the field for his 16 points and seven turnovers, but he added 10 rebounds and 10 assists as he stayed involved in other areas of the game. 

He was supported beautifully by Bane who top-scored with 26 points, hitting seven-of-15 from long range, while Clarke had 20 points and eight rebounds on just nine field goal attempts. Jones posted a line of 11 points, five rebounds and four assists off the bench, hitting all three of his threes.

Game 4 will remain in Minnesota before heading back to Memphis for Game 5.

Brunson and the bench boys

Dallas Mavericks point guard Jalen Brunson carried his side to a 126-118 win against the Utah Jazz, with superstar teammate Luka Doncic watching from the sidelines.

Brunson scored a career-high 41 points in his last outing, before dropping 31 on 12-of-22 shooting in hostile territory on Thursday.

He was supported by a terrific shooting performance by the Mavericks reserves, as Maxi Kleber, Davis Bertans and Josh Green combined to shoot 11-of-17 from three-point range. As a team, Dallas shot 42.9 per cent from beyond the arc (18-of-42).

The Jazz shot 56 per cent from the field in the loss, but were minus 12 in the nine minutes with Donovan Mitchell sitting on the bench. Mitchell finished with 32 points (10-of-21 shooting) with six assists.

Rudy Gobert did not miss a field goal or free throw for 15 points and seven rebounds, but the Jazz struggled to get stops while he and Mike Conley were on the floor, as both players finished with a plus/minus of minus 16.

The win is the Mavericks' first in Utah since 2016.

Warriors shoot their way to 3-0 lead

In a game where both teams shot the lights out, the Golden State Warriors showed once again that it is not wise to get into a shoot-out with the team from the Bay Area, beating the Denver Nuggets 118-113.

The Warriors shot 55 per cent from the field and 45 per cent from long range (18-40) as their offense was clicking for most of the night. 

Denver shot the ball well in their own right, finishing 50 per cent from the field and 44 per cent from deep (11-of-26), and even looked to take control in the third quarter, winning the term 30-18 and taking a 89-87 lead into the final period.

But that third quarter would be the Warriors' only slip-up, scoring at least 31 points in the other three as the Splash Brothers – now with a third member – were unstoppable.

Stephen Curry came off the bench once again to score 27 points (nine-of-17 shooting, three-of-nine from deep), Klay Thompson looked back to his best with 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting, hitting six of his 13 threes, while Jordan Poole continues to show he is no flash in the pan, scoring 27 points on nine-of-13 shooting.

For Denver, MVP favourite Nikola Jokic tried his heart out, finishing with 37 points (14-of-22 shooting) with 18 rebounds, five assists and three steals, and he was plus three in his 38 minutes, meaning the Nuggets were outscored by eight in his 10 minutes on the bench.

The win moves the Warriors to a 3-0 lead, with Game 4 to be played in Denver, before returning home for Game 5.

Jalen Brunson is in line for "a lot of money" next season, according to Jason Kidd, after leading the Dallas Mavericks to a vital Game 2 win over the Utah Jazz.

Brunson was again leading the offense for the Mavericks at home to the Jazz as superstar Luka Doncic remained out with a calf injury.

Doncic's involvement moving forward is still uncertain, meaning the Mavericks needed a team-mate to step up – and Brunson certainly did that with a career-high 41 points in the 110-104 victory that levelled the first-round series.

Playing alongside the ball-dominant Doncic, Brunson's usage rate has been just 20.4 per cent across his regular season career, but he has had to take control through two games.

After shooting nine-of-24 from the floor in Game 1, including one-of-three from beyond the arc, Brunson found his range on Monday.

The point guard set career highs in field-goal attempts (25, tied with a regular season game also against the Jazz) and makes (15) and three-point attempts (10) and makes (six).

"He didn't wait," coach Kidd said. "He took up the space and was aggressive from the jump ball. We talked about it earlier: don't wait, get to your spot and do what you do best.

"I thought he ran the team extremely well. He found spots to score and he made plays."

Brunson is in the final year of his rookie contract and will be an unrestricted free agent following the playoffs, putting him in a strong negotiating position on this form.

Asked what money his player could expect to make, Kidd replied: "A lot, a lot. He's going to make a lot of money. I don't know if he needs an agent, but I'm going to put my name in the hat.

"But it's not just what he did tonight and it's not what he's going to do going forward, he has already done the work this season. He's shown he deserves to be paid. He does his job at a very high level and he's a winner.

"Hopefully he can pay me for that, what I just said.

"He's a great young man and I'm very lucky to be able to coach him."

Brunson was not alone in finding joy from three, as Maxi Kleber shot eight-of-11, contributing to 47 attempts from the Mavericks.

On the defensive end, meanwhile, Dallas held the Jazz to 29 attempts after only 22 in Game 1. Utah averaged 40.3 three-point attempts in the regular season, the second-most in the NBA.

"Analytics will say if you're shooting threes and the other team's shooting twos, you have a great chance of winning," Kidd said. "It's just mathematics."

Still, the coach is not getting carried away ahead of going on the road for Games 3 and 4.

"We did what we had to do, and that was to win tonight. We were only focused on tonight," he said.

"Game 1 was over, there was nothing we could do. Now we can rest and get ready for Game 3, understand what's in front of us, what's coming.

"It's going to be a hostile environment; they play extremely well at home. We have to stay together, and we've shown that.

"After Game 1, it's easy to go our separate ways, but all season we've been saying this: after bad performances, we tend to bounce back. It's nothing different; it's basketball and we bounced back.

"Now we have to find a way to do what they did, and that's just win one game [on the road]."

Jalen Brunson scored a career-high 41 points to carry the Dallas Mavericks to a 110-104 home victory, tying their series against the Utah Jazz at 1-1.

With the Mavs missing Luka Doncic for the second straight game due to injury, Brunson scored 15 of their first 18 points as the two sides went into quarter-time tied at 24. It stayed neck-and-neck until a 7-0 run late in the second quarter gave Utah a seven-point lead at the long break.

Dallas' Maxi Kleber hit one three-pointer in each of the first two quarters, but caught fire in the second half, going three-for-four from long range in the third term and repeating that effort in the fourth quarter to finish with 25 points off the bench.

Kleber's biggest shots were back-to-back bombs to turn a 98-96 deficit into a 102-98 lead, which Dallas never relinquished, on the way to finishing eight-of-11 from three, while not attempting a single a two-point field goal.

Brunson finished an incredible 15-of-25 from the field and six-of-10 from three, and added eight rebounds, five assists and two turnovers.

For Utah, Donovan Mitchell top-scored with 34 points on 13-of-30 shooting, while Rudy Gobert grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked two shots.

The series heads to Utah next for Game 3 and Game 4.

 

76ers too much for Toronto

Despite strong first and fourth quarters for the Toronto Raptors, they went down 112-97 against the Philadelphia 76ers to fall down 2-0 in the series.

In an up-tempo first quarter where both sides were making shots, Fred VanVleet was the early standout, hitting four of his seven three-point attempts to head into quarter time with 14 points and his Raptors leading 33-32.

For the next two quarters, it would be all Philadelphia, out-scoring the Raptors 63-38 over the second and third frames to take full command of the contest, peaking at a 95-66 lead with 30 seconds remaining in the third.

The 76ers' intensity dropped in the last as the game was essentially won, which allowed Toronto to pull the margin back to 11 points with 6:30 to play, but that would be as close as things got as a Tyrese Maxey three and a string of free throws kept Philly's lead in the teens as the clock winded down.

Joel Embiid was the best player on the floor, scoring 31 points on nine-of-16 shooting (12-of-14 free throws) with 11 rebounds, while Maxey was unstoppable for the second game in a row, scoring an efficient 23 points on eight-of-11 shooting and adding nine rebounds with eight assists.

Tobias Harris also earned a mention with his 20 points and 10 rebounds, while O.G. Anunoby was the lone bright spot for the Raptors, scoring 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting and flashing some intriguing ability as a primary scoring option.

Toronto will host Game 3 and Game 4 of the series, with unvaccinated players unable to enter Canada, which means Matisse Thybulle will not travel with the 76ers.

 

Poole party for the Splash Brothers

After scoring a team-high 30 points in Game 1 against the Denver Nuggets, Jordan Poole was at it again in the Golden State Warriors' 126-106 win in Game 2.

While he did not top-score this time around, Poole was arguably the Warriors' best player through the first three quarters, racking up 27 of his 29 points up to three-quarter time as his side led 101-81 heading into the last.

Poole has emerged as the third 'Splash Brother' this postseason, with the original two also enjoying big games on Monday, as Stephen Curry scored a game-high 34 points in 23 minutes off the bench, while Klay Thompson chipped in with 21.

For Denver, MVP favourite Nikola Jokic was ejected in the fourth quarter for his second technical foul after accumulating 26 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in 28 minutes.

LeBron James hurt his ankle but played on as the Los Angeles Lakers were humbled by the in-form Phoenix Suns 108-88 led by Devin Booker with 24 points on Tuesday.

The Lakers had a major injury scare, with All-Star forward Anthony Davis already sidelined, after James rolled his left ankle driving to the basket in the third quarter, leaving him punching the floor.

The four-time MVP soldiered on, finishing with 34 points and seven rebounds, but spent the final few minutes on the bench as the Lakers were brushed aside by the Suns who improve to 25-5.

Phoenix have four straight and won six of their past seven games, having started the season 1-3. The Suns had seven different players in double figures on Tuesday.

Booker starred in his second game back after a hamstring injury with 24 points including six three-pointers, along with nine rebounds and seven assists. Suns center Deandre Ayton had 19 points and 11 rebounds.

Talen Horton-Tucker had a nightmare game for the Lakers, shooting one of 13 from the field and none of eight from beyond the arc, while Russell Westbrook had 22 points and 10 rebounds but also seven turnovers.

 

Lillard's heroics in vain as Blazers lose

Damian Lillard's 39 points, including six triples, were not enough to lift the Portland Trail Blazers past the New Orleans Pelicans, going down 111-97. Brandon Ingram finished with 28 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, while Jonas Valanciunas had 10 points with 16 rebounds.

Jalen Brunson stepped up in Luka Doncic's absence with 28 points including three triples in the Dallas Mavericks' 114-102 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Karl-Anthony Towns scored 26 points with 12 rebounds and seven assists for the Wolves.

Julius Randle had 21 points and 11 rebounds as the New York Knicks overcame the Detroit Pistons 105-91.

 

Brogdon injured as Pacers burnt by Heat

The Indiana Pacers' starting five combined for a measly 46 points in their 125-96 defeat to the Miami Heat. The Pacers were not helped by a sore right Achilles to Malcolm Brogdon which forced him off after eight minutes.

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