Brunson doing part to keep it positive
Amid losing, Brunson’s looked like first-round talent in limited action
Eddie Sefko: Jalen Brunson is not getting the playing minutes or is as heralded as fellow rookie Luka Doncic, but the former Villanova star is remaining upbeat and showing the Mavericks his resiliency and his skills. Okla. City at Mavericks 8 p.m. today (FSSW)
Jalen Brunson, the rookie out of Villanova, is a lot like Luka Doncic in one respect.
He’s not used to losing a lot of games.
While in college for three seasons, Brunson won two NCAA championships and lost a grand total of 13 games. He won 101.
Luka Doncic? He went
34-5 last season with Real Madrid.
These are guys who have not done a lot of losing in their basketball careers. Until now as they weather the 3-8 storm that the Mavericks find themselves in.
“It’s an experience,” Brunson said. “But I guess it’s part of growing up as well. Not everything in life is going to be great. There are going to be some bumps in the road. We’re obviously young. But you got to stay positive.
“It’s hard. This league is hard. You just got to keep pushing.”
The bottom line is that Brunson and Doncic are learning how to deal with the other side of the coin. And that’s OK — as long as they don’t get comfortable with losing.
“It’s definitely different for them,” J.J. Barea said. “The good thing is they are winners. But it’s definitely a learning process. They just got to stay with it.”
Rick Carlisle was asked Friday if he has to guard against the plethora of early-season losses having a bad impact on the young players.
His answer suggests there’s no chance of that.
“Nobody’s accepting it,” Carlisle said. “That’s not how we do business here. We’re not happy with the first 11 games. We’re working hard to grow closer together and make daily improvements.
“And we’re not going to let our young guys get down or disappointed if we’re losing games. And we’re certainly not going to accept any level of acceptance of losing. That’s just not how we operate here.”
The good news is that Brunson, while not as young as Doncic, is similar in that both are young and resilient. They don’t linger on rocky moments.
And both have been very solid in their rookie seasons.
Everybody expected Doncic to be a strong cornerstone for the franchise, and he has not disappointed.
In Brunson, the Mavericks thought they had a keeper, and through the first few weeks of the season, he’s showing that he probably should have been a first-round pick. The Mavericks are glad he wasn’t.
Brunson’s not burning up the league statistically like Doncic, but he’s not getting heavy minutes like Doncic, either.
Brunson is averaging 4.8 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 14 minutes per game.
At Utah on Wednesday, he had the most impactful 31 seconds of his season when he scored, quickly stole an inbounds pass from Derrick Favors and got a cheap layup 4 seconds later. Then on the next possession, he splashed in a 3-pointer.
It didn’t lead to a Mavericks’ win, but those seven quick points did get them back within 101-92 in a game that had seemed hopelessly out of reach. It was the most effective stretch for any Maverick in the game. He finished with 11 points, two rebounds and two assists in 16 minutes. The Mavericks were nine points to the good when he was on the floor.
“Brunson was a very positive factor in the game,” Carlisle said. “A good job at both ends. He’s plus-nine in 15 minutes. That tells you he was ready to play. We need those kind of performances from top to bottom.”
Harris returning? Devin Harris has been out since playing six minutes in the first half of the season opener at Phoenix, where he strained his left hamstring.
It’s been just over three weeks and coach Rick Carlisle said that Harris’ return could come as soon as Saturday night against Oklahoma City.
“We’ll know more in the morning,” Carlisle said after Friday’s workout. “He had a nice practice today. So there’s certainly a chance. But a lot of these things are: see how he wakes up and see how Mother Nature treats him during sleep time.”
Harris has said he wants to be able to run comfortably without any favoring of or fatigue in his leg. For a team that has struggled in many areas, his return would be a big boost.
“Attacking, play-making veterans that play both ends of the floor have great value in this league and on our team,” Carlisle said. “And experience is a valuable commodity when you’re working through challenges. So we’ll see if he’s ready tomorrow.”
Mavericks rookie Jalen Brunson (right), driving past Utah’s Dante Exum, is averaging 4.8 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 14 minutes per game and also proves a defensive presence.