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Knicks need Jalen Brunson and more after Dejounte Murray whiff

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In the end, Leon Rose lost his temper or never wanted to throw his chips into the middle of the table to begin with. Maybe the Knicks president will clarify that the next time he checks in, which is believed to be sometime in 2031 or so.

Here is the end result:

There better be something else.

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There better be another deal Rose has up his sleeve or in his imagination now that Dejounte Murray will co-star with Trae Young on the Hawks’ backcourt, instead of teaming with, presumably, Jalen Brunson at Madison Square Garden.

Because if it turns out that Rose simply wasn’t willing to match the deal the Hawks made (Danilo Gallinari and three first-rounders, plus a pick trade) to acquire Murray from the Spurs, it better be because there’s Something Better Out There. Outside. The deal that’s coming up better be better than the one that was on the table.

The Knicks could have bettered the Hawks’ final offer. After all, the Knicks have 11 first-round picks spread out over the next seven drafts, and each of them is just gathering dust right now. Even if it had taken four of them, along with, say, Evan Fournier and Immanuel Quickley, to bring Murray to New York and set up the Knicks with their most dynamic backcourt since Clyde and Pearl, Rose should have done it.

Unless.

Knicks president Leon Rose (left) lost a deal to the Hawks for Dejounte Murray (top right).  Rose is still looking to come to terms with Jalen Brunson (bottom right).
Knicks president Leon Rose (left) lost a deal to the Hawks for Dejounte Murray (top right). Rose is still looking to come to terms with Jalen Brunson (bottom right).
Getty Images (3)

Unless there is something else.

Because there has to be something else.

It’s fine and it’s fine that Rose has, by all accounts, already done most of the heavy lifting to free Brunson from the Mavericks. There may be a bit of an initial surprise if the likely terms (four years, $110 million, maybe more) pan out, but even at that rate, Brunson would only be the 14th-highest-paid point guard in the league. The market is the market. Good players get paid. And the Knicks need as many good players as they can get their hands on.

That’s why Murray was so tempting. He won’t turn 26 until September and has just reached the beginning of his prime. He has improved in every major category in each of his first five seasons as a pro, and in addition to averaging 21.9 points, 9.2 assists, 8.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals, he is precisely the type of defensive player that allows Tom Thibodeau to skip sleeping pills at night, closes his eyes with a smile.

It hurts more that it was the Hawks, tamers of the Knicks’ 2020-21 joyride, fellow residents of the lower-middle class of the Eastern Conference, and now a little taller than that. The Knicks crave good players, and if Brunson, Murray, Julius Randle, RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin didn’t make the Bucks, Heat or Celtics shiver in fear, they would have been a good starting point. The Knicks would have been better. It’s about getting better.

No longer can it be draft picks that feel like the LifeCycle you bought years ago, unused and mostly serving as a place to hang shirts, pants, and jackets. Trophies are not awarded by accumulation.

There is to win.

And the simplest route to that golden path is to collect better players. Brunson is a start. But he is only a start. There are all those selections. Suddenly there is $30 million in cap space. There’s a huge talent gap between the Knicks and most of the rest of the East. Murray wouldn’t have gotten over that on his own. But it would have been a good start.

Now, we wait for Rose to show us something else. We wait for her to reveal Plan B. Until she officially withdraws from the hand, we simply need to be skeptical, not fatalistic. Still, in the wake of this, and with a business history that has more hits than misses so far, it’s impossible not to recall this line from Gordon Gekko to Bud Fox on “Wall Street”:

“I’m afraid my friend, unless your father is on the board of directors of another company, you and I will have a hard time doing business together.”

Rose already used up his quota of available assistant coaches/former clients/star dad when he hired Rick Brunson. Now comes the hardest part: closing an impact deal that improves the Knicks. Doing what real team presidents do. He was in the arena with Dejounte Murray, he didn’t close the deal. Why couldn’t he? Why wouldn’t he?

Because there is something better out there?

Let’s put it this way: there better be.

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