Jalen Brunson Jan 20, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) celebrates his three point shot against the Toronto Raptors during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t long ago that New York Knicks fans were incensed by Candace Parker’s criticism of Jalen Brunson, a rapidly emerging star and one of the few bright spots in a talent-deprived franchise.

Las Vegas Aces head coach Becky Hammon said on ESPN’s NBA Today that the 6-foot-2 guard is “too small” to be a team’s top option, to which the TNT Sports analyst and two-time WNBA MVP agreed while also citing Brunson’s postseason performance from a season prior.

“We’ve seen Jalen Brunson in the playoffs with the (Dallas Mavericks), and he was No. 2 or 3 … but as a No. 1 option last season in the playoffs, great first round, second round not so much,” Parker said.

However, digging into the numbers painted a contrasting picture. Brunson’s performance in the playoffs was impressive. He averaged a solid 24 points, 4.8 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per game in the first round against the Cleveland Cavaliers. But in the second round against the Miami Heat, he truly stepped up, exploding for 31 points, 6.3 assists, and 5.5 rebounds per game. Notably, his shooting efficiency also improved, with a higher field goal and 3-point percentages.

Despite drawing the ire of Knicks fans, Parker reaffirmed her position on Brunson, dismissing it as part of her baptism by fire in the passionate world of NBA commentary.

In doing so, she clarified her previous comments on Brunson, emphasizing that she meant no disrespect but still believes smaller guards face challenges as a team’s main star. Additionally, she reiterated her opinion on a Zoom call for TNT ahead of this weekend’s All-Star Game that Brunson’s performance dipped in the Miami series compared to the Cleveland round.

“Well, I feel like, first of all, I love Knicks fans … and I get it,” Parker said Tuesday via the New York Post. “What I was alluding to was the fact that in the first round of the playoffs, he was the best player on the court against Donovan Mitchell. He was the best player on the court.

“And the second round, especially on the defensive end, Miami picked on him a great deal. And Jimmy Butler was, in fact, the best player on the court. And my thing was, basically, it was no slight on Jalen Brunson. I think he makes everybody better around him. I think he makes winning plays.”

Standing by her right to analyze players as an NBA analyst, Parker believes the Knicks’ late-season acquisitions of OG Anunoby, Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks address their defensive and shooting needs, bolstering their playoff push around Brunson and Julius Randle.

“I think what the Knicks have done in this trade, and in the season, that has been surrounding him with defense, which was something that they struggled with last year, and getting stops against Miami in the playoffs,” she added. “So that was my hot take.”

We shouldn’t expect Knicks fans to welcome this take with open arms, as any form of criticism towards Brunson — most of it unwarranted considering how good he’s been this season — is taken as a slight. At the same time, at least Parker addressed her original comments which created confusion, especially with the discrepancy in stats. You don’t have to agree with her, but credit should be due for sticking to her guns here.

[The New York Post]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.