Jalen Brunson enjoyed a breakout season in Rick Carlisle’s swansong as the Dallas Mavericks head coach.
Now, under Jason Kidd’s tutelage and Nico Harrison’s “servant leadership,” he hopes to pick up exactly where he left off at the end of the 2020-21 season.
“I’m really excited with what we have. It’s going to be great with coach Kidd and Nico, who I’ve known through my family. So it should be great. I’m excited for them and I’m ready to work,” Brunson said to Dwain Price of Mavs.com.
Ready to work is an understatement for Brunson. He’s already shared numerous conversations with his new head coach as he prepares for what will be a huge contract season for the Mavs’ backup point guard.
“We talked about what I can do to improve and things that we can do just to be a better team. And whatever it takes to be a better team, I’m all for that,” Brunson said.
However, conversations centering around Brunson’s improvement aren’t all he and Kidd have talked about. The elephant in the room is the Mavericks blowing a 2-0 series lead to the Los Angeles Clippers. Still, the two haven’t shied away from those conversations either.
“We’ve talked a lot,” Brunson said of his interactions with Kidd. “I think with the people that we have, the players that we have are more than capable of doing what we plan out to do. Yeah, but we’ll learn from it.”
Learning is Brunson’s modus operandi. From the moment he entered the league, he’s outwork everyone just to get on the floor consistently. That dedication hardened him. He fell in love with the process of getting better. And last season, he enjoyed the spoils of his work well done. This season, he’s planning more of the same.
“Being consistent is the best part of being who I am,” he said. “So as long as I’m consistent, as long as I do what I need to do to help this team win, I think I’ll help put us in a great position to be successful.
“But I’ll just keep working on my game.”
No doubt, what motivates Brunson is his love for the game. He’s a multi-time champion at the college level. He was the consensus college basketball Player of the Year in 2018. But it took 33 picks for a team to acknowledge that he has something to offer at the NBA level.
His draft fall motivates him. It drives him. That second-round selection is constantly in the back of his mind, urging him to be better and play harder than everyone else on the floor. In a way, that second-round selection can be described as a blessing in disguise. A disappointment turned into motivation. And as he enters a contract year, he recognizes that he wouldn’t be where he is today without that initial disappointment on draft night.
“I just control what I can control right now. And that’s working on my game, and when the time comes we’ll figure it out,” he said.
Last season Brunson averaged a career-high 12.8 points per game. He also chipped in with 3.5 assists. There was a certainty to what he was doing on the floor – one Mavericks fans hadn’t seen until his 2020-21 campaign.
In his mind, it’s time to build on that.
Heading into the 2021-22 season, he’s ready for both more improvement and for what he will learn playing for a Hall of Fame point guard in Jason Kidd.
“I’m just really excited,” Brunson said. “He has a great basketball mind, so I’m going to pick his brain as much as I can.”
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Feature image via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.