The Knicks opened training camp this week in relative calm compared to the Brooklyn Nets’ first day. The most controversial story the Knicks tackled was the hiring of Rick Brunson as an assistant coach on head coach Tom Thibodeau’s staff.
Brunson was previously an assistant under Thibodeau when the latter was the head coach of the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves, the father of Jalen Brunson, the former Dallas Mavericks point guard who was the Knicks’ biggest acquisition this summer, and current team president Leon Rose’s first NBA client. He also had two stints with the Knicks as a player, appearing in 54 games with the team from 1998-2000 and 15 in the 2000-01 season.
In 2018, Brunson resigned from the Timberwolves after allegations of misconduct with several women, including a member of the media. In 2014, he was arrested, charged and later acquitted on multiple counts, including sexually abusing a massage therapist at a fitness club in Vernon Hills, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.
On Tuesday, Thibodeau strongly vouched for Brusnon. “I have known Rick for a long time. I’m very comfortable with who he is,” he said. “He was on my team. I’ve known him since he was in college. I am very attached to him. »
The focus, therefore, will be on significantly improving last season’s 37-45 record, the 11th seed in the Eastern Conference and the playoffs, which they failed to do after being the No. 4 seed in the East at 41-31 for short 2020-21. country. They hope the addition of the 26-year-old Brunson, born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and just hitting his prime, will lighten much of the weight carried by Julius Randle over the past three seasons. and will accelerate the development of RJ Barrett as a cornerstone of the franchise.
While just making the playoffs would be an accomplishment for the Knicks, expectations are significantly higher for the Nets, a team that was plagued with dysfunction and drama last season that continued until late in the summer. Anything short of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals, and for many the NBA Finals considering they have arguably the most talented roster in the league, will be considered an abject disappointment.
The fractured Nets were swept by the Boston Celtics 4-0 in the first round of the playoffs last season under freshman head coach Steve Nash after finishing 44-38, 7th in the East. But now Kevin Durant (12), Kyrie Irving (7) and Ben Simmons (3), who have a total of 22 All-Star selections, all seem to be in a good space physically and mentally, and form a trio whose skills and the forces complement each other perfectly.
“I want to be in a stable place and try to build a championship culture,” Durant said at Nets media day, explaining why he asked the Nets for a trade in June that never materialized, ” and I had my doubts about this and expressed them to [team owner] Joe [Tsai] and we moved on from there.