Jalen Brunson’s connection to Derrick Rose could lead him to the Knicks


Jalen Brunson's connection to Derrick Rose could lead him to the Knicks

Derrick Rose’s value may be beyond what he can produce for the Knicks on the floor. His presence alone could help land their priority in free hands.

The veteran guard is another connection between the Knicks and coveted point guard Jalen Brunson, whose bond dates back to Brunson’s formative years in Illinois, when Rose was the Bulls’ star point guard and Brunson dreamed of one day playing in the NBA.

“Jalen would go to the Bulls facility and train with the Bulls players,” Pat Ambrose, Brunson’s coach at Adlai Stevenson High School, who remains close to him, told the Post in a phone interview. “There he became good friends with Derrick Rose. So her story gets deeper with the Knicks. Derrick saw that young Jalen was a very, very good player and Derrick was a kid from Chicago and he really started mentoring Jalen on basketball.”

Back then, Brunson’s father, Rick, was an assistant on the staff of coach Tom Thibodeau, the same role he now fills with the Knicks. There’s yet another layer, in addition to Brunson’s relationship with Thibodeau, President Leon Rose and Executive William Wesley — in addition to the fact that Rose’s son is Sam Brunson’s agent — that could work in the Knicks’ favor as they seek to recruit the talented 25-year-old who has one year of work behind her to move to the country.

Jalen Brunson and Derrick Rose
Jalen Brunson and Derrick Rose
Getty Images; AP

They began making room for salary caps Thursday to pay Brunson big money, trading out of the first round and dealing out Kemba Walker with the Pistons, making room for what is now $18 million. There’s still work to be done, with Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel potentially set to relocate so the Knicks can make a tempting offer for the former Villanova star. Brunson was raised in southern New Jersey before moving to Lincolnshire, Illinois for middle school, and still has roots in the area, owning a home on the Jersey Shore. His mother, Sandra, is a huge Giants football fan.

“I’m sure Leon Rose will play up all those ties,” Ambrose said. “I wouldn’t be surprised [if he wound up with the Knicks]. … The positive for the Knicks is that he has chosen to return home for once [for college] and there was success. Maybe he prefers to go back home.”

The coach later added, “He likes Dallas, I know he likes Dallas. But he is one [New] Guy from Jersey/New York.”

Brunson’s priority remains to be seen. When choosing a college, he chose Villanova over Michigan State and Illinois for a number of reasons, according to Ambrose. As his coach said, Brunson liked the idea of ​​returning to the Northeast and joining a successful program. It didn’t bother him that as a McDonald’s All-American he would initially take a backseat to Ryan Arcidiacono and not have the ball in hand from the vault like at other schools. That selflessness could work against the Knicks as they will sell the two-time national champions for a bigger role on the occasion.

The Mavericks, meanwhile, are in a far better position as a franchise after reaching the Western Conference Finals, with Brunson playing a key role, albeit as Luka Doncic’s wingman.

“Being the man, I wouldn’t say, would be best for him,” Ambrose said. “Every NBA player wants to get their hands on the ball, but they want to win. I know that winning is important to him, and I know that something he’s really proud of is winning and winning. That is always his focus.”

Obviously, with a week before the start of the free agency period, there is still a lot of uncertainty. The Knicks need to make more room for the cap. Though Ambrose said he wouldn’t be surprised if Brunson ends up with the Knicks, his former star player also enjoys playing for the Mavericks, who can offer him five years compared to the Knicks’ four years. In Dallas, the former second-round pick has blossomed into a strong NBA player and has had a long playoff streak during which he has been something of a breakout star, averaging 21.6 points per game.

It’s also unclear how much money the Mavericks are willing to pay to keep Brunson if they went the extra yard, as the Knicks appear to be doing.

“Not so much that money speaks, but how much more money?” Ambrose wondered. “If Dallas slightly insults him with a low-ball offer and shows New York that they really, really want him, it could change things.

“He’s also a young man who knows he can help build a winner, he can work on that, and the future in the NBA can be pretty volatile, whether it’s an injury or drafts and things like that. He obviously knows Tom Thibodeau very well and knows that this guy knows how to build winners.”

The Knicks have reportedly added a second player in forward Garrison Brooks on an Exhibit 10 contract. The 6-foot-9 Brooks spent the past year at Mississippi State, where he averaged 10.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and shot 34.2 percent from 3-point range. Before that he visited North Carolina.

Thursday night, the Knicks signed guard Jean Montero to a deal with Exhibit 10. The 6-foot-2 Montero hails from new high school league Overtime Elite, which pays players. A contract in Annex 10 includes an invitation to the training camp and to the summer league.

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