New York Knicks All-Star guard Jalen Brunson confirmed reports that he wanted to sign a four-year, $55 million contract extension with the Dallas Mavericks, but said the team twice declined to offer him the deal when his representation approached the Mavericks about it during Brunson’s final season in Dallas.

Brunson, who has since blossomed into a star in New York and received MVP votes after a breakout 2022-23 season, told The All The Smoke Podcast recently that he had hoped to stay in Dallas long-term. He even says he told his camp at the time that he would sign the extension — the maximum he could be offered NBA under salary cap rules — before the 2021-22 season, his last under contract with the Mavericks after joining the team as a second-round pick in 2018.

“I really did want to stay in Dallas,” Brunson said. “I thought I would be there for a long time, and I liked my role there. It’s funny, because my agent was like, ‘You can get more [if you opt to hit free agency],’ and I was like, ‘I want to be safe. I’m not trying to gamble right now. This is not something you can really gamble with if it’s out there.'”

But the Mavericks said they wanted to wait until 20-25 games into the season and see how Brunson was performing before revisiting contract talks. By the time that point of the season rolled around, Brunson was not only performing well in his role as the Mavericks’ sixth man, but was pressing for a promotion to Dallas’ starting lineup after star Luka Doncic went down with an injury.

“So we went back [to the team] and we were like, ‘Hey, if the deal’s there, we’re thinking about it. I’ll [sign] it, like, right now,'” Brunson said. “And still, [the answer] was, ‘No.’ It wasn’t a hard no, it was just like, ‘We want to see.'”

As Brunson continued to play well without an extension and the NBA trade deadline approached, he started to expect he would be traded. Instead, the Mavericks held onto him through the deadline — and then finally offered him the extension he had sought.

“I was like, ‘No, I think I’ve outgrown that now,'” Brunson recalled. 

Brunson excelled again in an elevated role in the playoffs, scoring at least 23 points in each of Dallas’s six games during their first-round series win over the Utah Jazz. That included a 41-point performance in Game 2 of that series and 31-point performance in Game 3, with Doncic again sidelined due to an injury. He then contributed another 31-point game during the Mavericks’ Western Conference Finals loss to the Golden State Warriors.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban then made headlines after the team’s elimination by pointing out Dallas could still pay Brunson more than any other team in free agency under salary cap rules, and also saying he believed Brunson wanted to stay. But Brunson said he only heard “crickets” from Cuban and the Mavericks.

At that point, Brunson said he saw New York “making moves” — one of which was hiring his father, former NBA player Rick Brunson, as an assistant coach — and liked the idea of playing back on the East Coast near where he grew up — where he played collegiately at Villanova in Philadelphia.

The Knicks were later docked a 2025 second-round NBA Draft pick after an NBA investigation revealed that the team had violated tampering rules in their free-agency pursuit of the younger Brunson. Cuban said last April that the Mavericks lost out on re-signing Jalen Brunson “when the parents got involved” and refuted a report that Brunson was open to signing an extension the prior season.

As for Brunson was voted an All-Star starter for the first time in his career this season. So far in 2023-24, Brunson is averaging 27.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game — all career highs.

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Jalen Brunson

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