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Mavericks expect Jalen Brunson to sign with New York Knicks in free agency

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The NBA window for free agency negotiations doesn’t open until 5:00 pm Dallas time on Thursday.

But the signings two days earlier point to a disappointing start for the Mavericks.

Starting guard Jalen Brunson has not told the Dallas front office where he plans to sign in what has become a head-to-head chase between the Mavericks and New York Knicks, a source said. Dallas morning news on Tuesday.

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But the source said the Mavericks expect Brunson to pick the Knicks — and their perks related to family and stardom — when the league allows players and teams to begin verbally agreeing to new contracts at 11 pm Thursday.

In that case, consider that the Mavericks are in an early offseason hole.

Since ending his season in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals, general manager Nico Harrison and the Mavericks’ leadership have not hesitated to label Brunson’s return as their No. 1 goal.

“It’s easy. It’s the top priority,” Harrison said in his exit interview on May 27. “We have to figure that out. … We’re not in control of that, but it’s definitely a priority. We want to re-sign him. He knows that we want it back and [to] be part of our future.”

The Mavericks had multiple opportunities to secure that over the past year.

Since last offseason, Brunson has been eligible for a four-year, $55 million extension of the second-year rookie deal he signed in 2018.

But the Mavericks didn’t introduce him to Brunson’s camp before the season or at the midpoint, when a deal before the trade deadline would have made Brunson ineligible for Dallas to include in a potential deal.

After moving Kristaps Porzingis at the deadline, the Mavericks extended the same four-year, $55 million offer to starting end Dorian Finney-Smith, who signed immediately despite the potential to earn more as an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Enter the Knicks, who have targeted Brunson as their next leading point guard for a while.

Knicks executive William Wesley and Allan Houston and forward Julius Randle, an Euless native, sat courtside at the American Airlines Center during the Mavericks’ first-round playoff series against the Jazz in April.

That’s when Brunson’s value soared as he put up a combined 72 points and 11 assists for a turnover in Games 2 and 3 wins to help the Mavericks overcome Luka Doncic’s three-game absence due to strain. in the calf.

Shortly after the Mavericks ended their surprising playoff streak, during which Brunson averaged 21.6 points and 46.6% shooting in 35 minutes per game, reports emerged that the Knicks planned to sign Brunson’s father, Rick, as assistant coach.

That didn’t surprise Dallas leadership, according to another source, who said discussions about hiring Rick surfaced as early as last December.

His father’s role in New York added to a group that already has strong ties to Jalen.

As an NBA official, Rick was the first client of then-agent Leon Rose, now president of basketball operations for the Knicks and very close to the Brunson family. Rose’s son Sam now represents Jalen as his daily agent at Creative Artists Agency.

Rick has known Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau since high school three decades ago and coached on Thibodeau’s staff with the Chicago Bulls (2010-12) and Minnesota Timberwolves (2016-18).

What has surprised the Mavericks: The growing sense that Jalen will choose to join New York despite Dallas’ ability to offer him the most lucrative contract and the best chance for continued team success.

As the original team that owns the Bird rights to Brunson, Dallas can offer him a five-year deal, while the NBA prohibits non-starters from trading more than four, with a first-year salary of up to $30 million and a total package deal. of up to $175 million.

That would mark a massive $1.8 million salary bump in 2021-22, the final year of his rookie deal, while also allowing him to start alongside superstar Luka Doncic, learn from head coach Jason Kidd and help leading a franchise that hopes to compete atop the Western Conference for years to come.

Meanwhile, the Knicks finished last season with a 37-45 record, made the playoffs just once in the past nine years, and draw attention to controversy and disappointment more often than they do to winning.

New York has cleared about $20 million in salary-cap space since the end of the season and plans to create more, reportedly to offer Brunson a four-year deal worth more than $100 million.

A source said earlier this month that the Mavericks probably wouldn’t be interested in signing and trading Brunson because they didn’t covet any of the Knicks’ potential inclusions.

But the mindset at the team’s Design District facility may soon change as fears mount of losing one of their most trusted pillars never to return.

More to come in this developing story.

10 potential Mavericks free agents: Otto Porter Jr., Jalen Brunson backup and more

Find more Mavericks coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.

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