DALLAS – On second thought, the NBA All-Star break came at the most opportune time for Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Jalen Brunson.
Every since he led the Villanova Wildcats to their second NCAA title in the past three seasons last April, Brunson has been running full speed ahead with very few moments to catch his breath. The All-Star break, which lasted a week for teams like the Mavs who hasn’t played since Feb. 13, provided the chance for players like Brunson to sit back, kick up their feet and get some much needed rest and relaxation.
“It came at a great time,” Brunson said of the All-Star break. “I think honestly, just from last college (season), not really having any time off and going right into the draft workouts, I think my fatigue was during the summer league, and then I kind of got a little break.
“I think I’m feeling a lot better now. I’m just pushing through and I feel good.”
Coach Rick Carlisle agreed that Brunson may have hot the proverbial “rookie wall” before his rookie season actually started.
“I go back to the summer league where he had some struggles, but studied what happened, learned from it, got better,” Carlisle said after Thursday’s practice at the Lympo practice facilities. “He stretched out his game now where he’s a consistent 3-point threat, and he’s driving the ball great.”
“He’s one of our important playmakers. Defensively, he’s very solid and he’s one of our better perimeter defenders on defense.”
And that’s not all.
Brunson actually has played the role of a Swiss Army knife for the Mavs, in that he’s shown that he can help them in multiple areas.
“He’s had a lot of different types of roles this year,” Carlisle said. “Everything from being a stay ready bench guy to being in the primary rotation off the bench, and then starting a lot of games.
“One of the great things about him is he’s ready for anything, and he’ll always be ready. And he’s very professional for a guy that’s just a first-year player.”
While Brunson got some rest during the break, he also returned to his high school in Lincolnshire, Ill, in suburban Chicago – Stevenson High School – last Friday when he had his No. 15 jersey retired during a ceremony. Brunson is the Patroits’ all-time scoring leader and also led them to the Class 4A state title in 2015.
“It meant a lot,” Brunson said of the jersey retirement. “My high school means a lot to me, that whole community means a lot, so to just go and have that done is pretty special.
“It’s one thing where you just work on your own and try to be the best player you can be every day and not really worrying about those type of nights. But when the opportunity does come around it’s pretty special.”
Brunson and the Mavs (26-31) will be back in action on Friday at 7:30 p.m. when they host the Denver Nuggets (39-18) at American Airlines Center. Which team can knock off the rust the best will likely emerge as the victors.
“I always set a goal with time off,” Brunson said. “I just gradually get back into it. I remember the last couple of days I started working out.
“I just take a mental break, spent time with family and just kind of just low for a little bit.”