Paul George offers up high praise for Knicks star Jalen Brunson amid historic playoff run

Nov 6, 2023; New York, New York, USA;  New York Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson (11) drives the ball towards the basket against Los Angeles Clipper forward Paul George (13) during the first quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Clippers All-Star Paul George recently gave New York Knicks MVP candidate Jalen Brunson his flowers in the midst of his groundbreaking 2024 NBA playoff run.

Paul George praises Knicks superstar Jalen Brunson

Apr 12, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA;  Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George (13) warms up prior to the NBA game against the Utah Jazz at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

On the May 9 episode of “Podcast P,” George spoke on how far Brunson has come as a player, and how, despite seeing signs of him becoming a star franchise player during his days with the Dallas Mavericks, his rise to MVP candidacy has exceeded his expectations (h/t Bleacher Report’s Scott Polacek):

“Nah, not like this. I ain’t going to even lie. I thought he was really good. And you see the flashes of what he’s doing now. You saw those flashes and those plays when he was in Dallas, but obviously small sample size when you playing alongside Luka [Don?i?] and so you don’t see that. But I mean when Luka went out and Jalen Brunson became the starter and that stretch where Luka was hurt, he showed that he could handle and run a team and be the face of a team. So you saw the signs, but I didn’t think this good, especially what he’s doing in probably the biggest market that you could do it in the toughest probably franchise that you could play for with the expectations, the pressure in New York, he’s delivering. He’s been tough. He’s been extremely tough. I think he just figured it out. Especially with no Julius [Randle] too.”

Paul George knows firsthand how good of a player Jalen Brunson has developed into

George’s career has directly overlapped with Brunson’s. Having entered the league himself in 2010, he’s witnessed Brunson’s evolution firsthand from 2018 to now.

The Fresno State product has also been on the receiving end of several big games from Brunson through the years. His Clippers had (and still have) a storied rivalry with the Mavericks. He and Brunson faced off in a Western Conference First Round series at the end of the 2020-21 season which saw Brunson finish fourth in Sixth Man of the Year voting. George’s Clippers won the series in seven games, but the then-Mavs guard was starting to truly come into his own as a shot-creator and playmaker.

From then on, Brunson has blossomed year over year. The Knicks’ superstar and Villanova product has upped his scoring by 16.1 points per game from 12.6 PPG in 2020-21 to 28.7 PPG in 2023-24.

Jalen Brunson’s name has been all over the history books in the 2024 regular season and playoffs

May 8, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) celebrates in the fourth quarter  after scoring against the Indiana Pacers during game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
May 8, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) celebrates in the fourth quarter after scoring against the Indiana Pacers during game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The 27-year-old has set many records in this season alone. He set the franchise record for most 40-point games by a Knicks point guard in history with his 42-point outing in a win over the Detroit Pistons on Nov. 30. Brunson also became the first player ever to drill eight threes without missing in an NBA half when he did so in the Knicks’ 139-122 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Dec. 15.

When New York has needed him most, especially without Randle as George alluded to, the All-Star point guard has come through. He led the charge as the Knicks downed the Philadelphia 76ers in six games of their first-round series while breaking Bernard King’s Knicks single-game playoff scoring record with 47 points in Game 4.

Brad Botkin of CBS Sports shed light on Brunson’s incredible play during this postseason, which includes several firsts in NBA history, even above the likes of Hall-of-Famers like Michael Jordan and superstars like Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James:

  • Brunson is the first player in history to post at least 40 points and five assists in four straight playoff games. 
  • Brunson is the first player in history to record at least 39 points on at least 45% shooting in five straight playoff games. 
  • Brunson is the first player in history to average 40 points and nine assists over a five-game playoff span. 
  • Brunson is the fifth player in history to record 30-plus points and five-plus assists in five consecutive playoff games, joining Oscar Robertson, Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James.
  • Brunson’s 210 points over his last five games is the most anyone has scored over any five-game playoff span since Jordan in 1993. 

The New Jersey native has been on a tear and has looked like a true No. 1 option for any championship-level team. The Knicks have a legitimate chance at winning the championship this year with a 2-0 lead over the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. George’s praise of the rising superstar is merited and comes at no better time than now.

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