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Steve Popper, Newsday Knicks Reporter

JR Sports Brief / JR
The Truth Network Radio
May 15, 2024 7:12 pm

Steve Popper, Newsday Knicks Reporter

JR Sports Brief / JR

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May 15, 2024 7:12 pm

Steve Popper joined JR to discuss Jalen Brunson's impressive Game 5 performance and if the Knicks will be able to replicate that performance in Game 6 on Friday. 

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The all-new season of the Kardashians premieres May 23rd streaming on Hulu. For Steve, thank you for joining us. Anytime.

Glad I could do it with you. No doubt about it. I guess the first question is, Jalen Brunson, his foot is okay now, huh? They don't talk about it, but I guess he's fine.

It seemed okay. I asked him before the game yesterday morning, without giving the usual, I'm fine, which is what his stock answer is, even if he can't walk. Used another word, he just said, I'm good, and he was better than good.

I will say this. The guy is tough as nails. Whether it's a regular season game in February or a game in the playoffs, if he can play, he's going to be out there. I think what we saw yesterday was he's going to find a way.

It's just kind of amazing to think of what he's going through. We've seen limited for him that he's able to produce the way he is. I mean, a 44-point night basically dominating everything that the Pacers tried to throw at him defensively.

Well, Steve, we saw the ascent. We saw him become an all-star, and then we saw what he continued to do when Julius Randle went down with the shoulder. Would we see this version of Jalen Brunson? Would he have elevated his game to this space if Julius Randle did not go down? I don't think he could have, and that's not a knock on Julius at all. I think Julius was learning to fit, and the two pieces were working together. Look, there's a lot of days where I think Nick fans will admit, you're missing Julius.

You really need that second option who can really change the gravity of a defense. But given the opportunity to take the ball and dominate it the way that he has, he's just, as his usage has gone up, his efficiency, his production, and the belief of the entire team I think has changed. It's crazy to think of where they are right now with a chance to clinch this and go to the Eastern Conference Finals with the pieces that are missing here. A two-time All-NBA guy in Julius, it's just amazing. Mitchell Robinson, Ojian Anobi, even Bogdanovic was an important piece to what they were trying to do here. It's amazing to me that they're playing the way they are and essentially with a lineup that includes one guy and Jalen who was the starter on opening night.

Steve Popper is here with us courtesy of Newsday. When you talk about the team that Coach Thibodeau has been able to roll with and have success, he's received and faced a lot of criticism. Josh Hart had to tell everybody, relax, you don't know what we do here. What are your thoughts on the usage and I guess the necessary usage of some of the bench players or lack thereof?

I kind of argued this all season. I guess for Josh's first point that the Knicks do not practice the way people think that a Thibodeau team would. They don't do the hard contact drills. They don't do the three-hour practices.

A lot of what they do now is film work and just rehab stuff and just walk through the mental preparation. It's a different game than it was for Thibodeau years in the past. But I think what we're seeing now is not just the Knicks. I think it's all around the league that teams are going to go with their best players as long as they can in the playoffs because every win, every minute is essential. The Knicks played seven people last night and they got great production out of them.

But they're not going to, when the game is on the line, waste a minute. And I think we see it every night in the series, whether it's this series where the Knicks are trying to survive any couple of minutes they take bunting out of the game. Look at the first round when the Sixers, the Joel Embiid minutes on the bench were brutal for them and the Knicks just repeatedly took advantage. Teams are going to go with their best players here and I don't think anybody's feeling fatigued. The Knicks talked about on Monday having a day off and Josh Hart talked about going to get a manicure with his wife.

It was a relaxation time, a time to unwind and catch their breath here. The rest is when you're in the cold tub and the production and minutes on the court are just essential and no one is going to go away from that right now. I don't think any team is. Well, when you talk about the tips in his future, there was a report that he is in line for a contract extension.

Is there any truth or facts to that? I have not got that confirmed and we've tried and we've talked to people and I think obviously I would give you the most obvious thing here is Jalen Brunson has known Tom since he was a child and I think Tom was a big part of Jalen coming here. So as long as Jalen is in Tom's corner, I think Tom's job is safe as long as he wants to be here doing this. To me, it makes sense and it's always made sense. This group that is here is very tied together from Leon Rose, Tom Thibodeau, Gerson Rosas and Jalen Brunson and not to mention Rick Brunson who's had such a long relationship with Tom and Tom has kind of brought him with him everywhere he's been. I think they're in this together as long as Leon is here, I think Tom has a place and as long as Jalen is here, everyone associated with him is secure.

Steve Popper is here with us courtesy of Newsday. When you talk about this series specifically, it can go up and down. The Knicks had a Mother's Day massacre on Sunday. They bounced back to bring down the hammer themselves. What do you expect the rest of the series still looking at the Knicks as you can't deny they're short-handed?

Yeah, of course, but I'll tell you this. I don't know where that game came from. I'm at every Knicks game all year and for way too many years of doing this, I've never seen this group have a game like that where they never made a run, where they never looked like they were in it. So I think it was one where they threw the film out, wiped that one away, changed the lineup, made a significant move adding Deuce McBride to the starting lineup and everything suddenly fit in better. I don't think we'll see anything like that in the Knicks again and I don't think they fear going on the road.

They enjoyed the hostility. They had a very good shot to win Game 3 on the road. Also, to me, I may not expect what I saw last night, but I don't expect Game 4 either. I think the Knicks are going to be in this and try and close this out. Look, there's a desperation.

They want to get this done. I think every team now sees every game you play, you're risking a chance for an injury that can derail your hopes. When you talk about injuries, the Knicks are familiar.

Last question for you, Steve. The country, I think even fans in the tri-state area in New York, everybody is finding out more and has found out more recently about Isaiah Hartenstein. We know he's going to get paid. We know he felt he got screwed out of his first payday. Does this mean and guarantee that he's no longer going to be a Knick and the Knicks will be priced out come summer?

It's a strange situation. Look, I think he wants to be here. I think he likes to fit.

I think they like to fit. I think they want to find a way to make it happen. But because of the collective bargaining agreement that has some quirks in it and they can't pay him as much as say a Philadelphia or an Oklahoma City or an Orlando can, the Knicks don't have the cap space and they don't have the ability to pay him an unlimited number or to match an unlimited number.

So I think they've got to come to an understanding and figure out a way to make this work at a reasonable number and I think roll and fit probably do have things to do with it. But he's definitely going to be chased by some teams in need of a big man. I think you can look at like an OKC or New Orleans or teams like that and think this is a guy who would fit very nicely there.

Guarding the rim and also play making the way he can. It's going to be interesting. Like I said, I think he likes his fit here. I think it's fortuitous by the Knicks as much as it has upped his price giving him this long run as a starter since December.

I think he's kind of felt at home here and become very much a part of this sort of cult of Jalen here. So I wouldn't be surprised if he tries to make it work even if you get a little more somewhere else. But it's going to be interesting. I think they've got to talk to him long term about how we make it work now and maybe the next deal we take care of you better. It's a tough situation for both sides really.

Absolutely. Hopefully he hasn't priced himself out. 17 rebounds yesterday. A Knick record.

12 offensive. Steve, thank you for taking the time to join us. Where can people follow you and your work with Newsday? Just at NewsdaySports.com and on Twitter. Just at Steve Popper.

Very simple. Thank you, Steve. And enjoy the rest of the ride, man. It's going to be a fun one, hopefully. Thanks for having me. It's always been more interesting than I've seen in years.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-15 21:02:44 / 2024-05-15 21:07:54 / 5

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