A meeting with the Mavs scheduled to be held soon after the opening of free agency on Thursday evening was canceled in the afternoon, sources confirmed, as Brunson had made up his mind to commit to the Knicks. New York is expected to offer Brunson a four-year contract in the range of $110 million, sources said.
NBA reporter Marc Stein first reported that the meeting with Dallas had been called off.
Brunson’s departure from Dallas to New York has been widely anticipated for days, as the Knicks made a more lucrative offer to play a larger role for a franchise that has deep family ties, including the recent addition of his father, Rick Brunson, as an assistant coach.
Knicks president Leon Rose, who made a series of trades since draft night to create enough cap space to sign Brunson, is a prominent former player agent whose first client was Rick Brunson. He also represented Jalen Brunson at the beginning of his career. Rick Brunson’s recent hiring reunited him with head coach Tom Thibodeau, for whom he also served as an assistant with the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Brunson, 25, who is coming off a breakout season in which he averaged 16.3 points and 4.8 assists per game, intends to help revitalize a New York franchise that has not won a playoff series in the past nine seasons. New York’s only postseason appearance and winning campaign during that span was in 2020-21, Thibodeau’s first season as the Knicks’ head coach, when they went 41-31 before losing as the No. 4 seed to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round.
Brunson established himself as Dallas’ No. 2 option behind All-NBA guard Luka Doncic, his 2018 draft classmate, after joining the starting lineup on a full-time basis in December. Brunson helped lead the Mavericks to the Western Conference finals for the first time in 11 years, averaging 21.6 points per game during the playoffs. He exploded for 41- and 31-point performances in first-round victories over the Utah Jazz while Doncic was sidelined by a strained calf, a strong indication Brunson could thrive as a team’s primary playmaker.
“It’s a great fit [in Dallas], but at the end of the day, my son is no different than the next man,” Rick Brunson told ESPN during that first-round series. “You try to raise them the right way in terms of understanding the game, but everyone wants what Luka has. I don’t care who you are. Everyone wants that feeling of, ‘Hey, I can do this too.’ I don’t always think the grass is greener on the other side, but we’ll sit down this summer and go through all the pros and cons of staying here or going somewhere else.”
Mavericks governor Mark Cuban and general manager Nico Harrison ranked Brunson as the franchise’s top offseason priority in the wake of the playoff run, but Dallas’ confidence in keeping Brunson steadily declined in the days leading to free agency.
Sources said the Mavericks were willing to give Brunson a five-year contract — which only Dallas can offer due to owning his Bird rights — that was comparable to the four-year, $85 million deal guard Fred VanVleet signed with the Toronto Raptors in 2020.
Brunson, an unrestricted free agent because the fourth season of his rookie deal was nonguaranteed instead of a team option, declined the Mavs’ offer of a four-year, $55.5 million contract extension after the trade deadline, when Dallas forward Dorian Finney-Smith signed an identical deal. By that point, Brunson was confident that he would make significantly more as a free agent.
Jalen Brunson had informed the Mavs in January that he was willing to sign the extension if it was offered then, Rick Brunson told ESPN during the playoffs. Dallas made the calculated decision to hold off on discussions until after the trade deadline, in case the Mavs had the opportunity to trade for a star, as an extension would have prevented Brunson from being eligible to be traded for six months.