Derek Harper promises Knicks fans will love Jalen Brunson


Derek Harper promises Knicks fans will love Jalen Brunson

Derek Harper chuckled at the narrative being spun this week that Jalen Brunson was overpaid to join the Knicks.

Just wait it out, the Mavericks television analyst said. Watch how it affects winning.

“People are going to be shocked at what Jalen Brunson brings to the ground every night,” Harper, arguably the Knicks’ last discriminator at point guard, told the Post in a phone interview Friday, a day after Brunson agreed to a four-year, $104 million deal. “This guy is just something special. … I think he’s underrated. Only this year did he get the recognition he deserved.

“It was a pleasure to watch him because the bigger the moment, the bigger he stood up and I don’t think you can say that about everyone. Many boys shy away from big moments and adverse situations. That will surprise some people.”

Nobody knows better than Harper what awaits 25-year-old Brunson in New York. Like Brunson, he went from the Mavericks to the Knicks, albeit in a trade, not by free hand. Expectations were high for Harper as he joined a title contender he then helped reach the 1994 NBA Finals. It took him time to adjust to the pressure cooker playing for the Knicks point guard, but he doesn’t expect it to be a problem for Brunson.

Derek Harper, Jalen Brunson
Derek Harper, Jalen Brunson
Getty (2)

“Built for it, born for it,” said Harper, who played portions of three seasons with the Knicks from 1994-1996 and averaged 11.7 points, 4.8 assists and 1.3 steals, giving them two seasons at 50 Siegen helped five playoff series wins. “There are some guys who are so intellectual you can put them in a cage anywhere and they’ll fight their way out, and that’s Jalen. Jalen has no respect for any player in this league. Rather, he wants to prove himself against the best.”

Brunson grew up in southern New Jersey and has close ties to the Knicks organization. Team President Leon Rose is his former agent. Rose’s son Sam is his current representative. Brunson has previous relationships with trainer Tom Thibodeau and veteran guard Derrick Rose. His father Rick was recently added to Thibodeau’s staff. Brunson knows what he’s getting himself into.

Harper is so confident in Brunson in part because he’s watched his development up close, from a second-round pick in 2018 to a backup starter and most recently a breakout playoff performer. He has seen how hard and diligent he works.

Harper jokingly describes himself as the president of the Jalen Brunson Fan Club, a group he plans to expand in New York. Harper said he believes over time Brunson will not only be worth, but potentially surpass, the big contract he just landed.

“I just see a leader in Jalen, that’s why I cheer for him so much,” Harper said.

Jalen Brunson
Jalen Brunson became a star in the playoffs.
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Derek Harper
Derek Harper played parts of three seasons with the Knicks.
Getty Images

Harper was torn this week when reports surfaced that Brunson was headed to the Knicks. He was happy to land a big contract at the place he once called home but was disappointed his days of calling Brunson’s games were over. He loved the southpaw, not just the player he had become, but the person of character.

Harper now has to follow him from afar. The Mavericks’ loss is the Knicks’ gain.

When it was suggested to Harper that Brunson is, on paper at least, the best point guard the Knicks have had since running the show, he laughed.

“Man, I’m 60 years old,” Harper said.

That just goes to show what a massive problem position has been for the Knicks over the past 25 years. But the last man to consistently play that point well for them thinks they’ve found the right man.

“I promise Knicks fans they won’t be disappointed with Jalen,” Harper said. “He’s definitely one of the better young point guards in this league. He’s not one of those guys that gets $100 million and stops working at their craft and goes to another height.

“There’s more to come with Jalen Brunson. You saw what he did during the playoffs. … They have a solid point guard for a long time.”

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