FRISCO — A lot has changed for Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson since he and his family took a vacation earlier this summer to Jamaica.

For starters, Brunson has shaved most of his long beard. Also, the Mavs’ upper management looks a bit different now that Jason Kidd has replaced Rick Carlisle as the team’s head coach and Nico Harrison has replaced Donnie Nelson as the team’s general manager and president of basketball operations.

The news shook Brunson like one of those waves on the Gulf of Mexico.

“It was a little weird,” Brunson said. “I was shocked.”

Brunson then paused to send well-wishes to Carlisle and Nelson.

“I can’t thank Donnie and Rick enough for the opportunity that they gave me,” he said. “They welcomed me with open arms, and I can’t than them enough about it.

“But I’m really excited with what we have. It’s going to be great with coach Kidd and Nico, who I’ve known through my family. So it should be great. I’m excited for them and I’m ready to work.”

Now entering his fourth season, Brunson’s already had a couple of conversations with Kidd. A lion’s share of that conversation centered around the Mavs losing their first-round playoff series last month to the Los Angeles Clippers in seven games.

The Mavs captured the first two games of that best-of-seven series in Los Angeles, returned home and dropped two games in Dallas, and went back to LA and won Game 5 to go up 3-2 in the series. However, the Mavs lost Game 6 at American Airlines Center and Game 7 in LA.

“We’ve talked a lot,” Brunson said of his interactions with Kidd. “I think our most important conversation was about our last series.

“We talked about what I can do to improve and things that we can do just to be a better team. And whatever it takes to be a better team, I’m all for that.”

Brunson knows it’s inexplicable what happened to the Mavs against the Clippers.

“We had an opportunity,” he said. “Obviously we didn’t do anything with it, but it was still a learning experience for us.

“I think with the people that we have, the players that we have are more than capable of doing what we plan out to do. Yeah, but we’ll learn from it.”

So what needs to happen for the Mavs to get out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time since they won the 2011 NBA title?

“We’ve got to win four games before (the opponent does),” Brunson said. “We’ve got to cease the opportunity. We can’t be happy when we’re up 2-0.

“I don’t think we got lackadaisical. I just think they adjusted and they evened it up (2-2), and then we  adjusted, and then they have Kawhi Leonard.”

Jalen at the campBrunson, who spoke at the Mavs Academy Hoop Camp in Frisco on Tuesday, admitted this was no ordinary first-round playoff exit. Thus, the pain still exists.

“It’s hurt us all summer,” Brunson said. “We’ve just been thinking about it all summer.

“I think we’ll be fine. I think we have great pieces. We have a lot of guys that can step up and are willing to step up.”

For his part, Brunson, who averaged 12.6 points and 3.5 assists in 25 minutes last season, pointed out that he just wants to be consistent with his performance on the court.

“Being consistent is the best part of being who I am,” he said. “So as long as I’m consistent, as long as I do what I need to do to help this team win, I think I’ll help put us in a great position to be successful.

“But I’ll just keep working on my game.”

It’s no secret that Brunson was one of the “steals’ of the 2018 NBA Draft. After leading Villanova to two NCAA titles in a three-year span and also being named the consensus college Player of the Year in 2018 and a consensus first-team All-American that season, Brunson was primed to enter the draft as one of its most precious commodities.

Nevertheless, despite all of that glitzy hardware and the red carpet treatment that comes with it, Brunson somehow dropped to the second round of the draft, where the Mavs nabbed him with the No. 33 overall selection.

Three years later, now NBA coaches and general managers are fawning all over Brunson, who has designs on being a starter in the NBA after finishing fourth this past season in the running for the league’s Sixth Man Award.

“It’s something that I always just set out for myself (and) it’s something that’s always in the back of my mind,” Brunson said. “I want to work like I want to be the best player. I’m going to keep working.

“That’s my mentality when I’m in the gym by myself. But when it comes to team time, I’m going to do whatever is best for the team. That’s how I’ve always been, that’s how I was raised and that’s how it’s going to be for me.”

Brunson has a team option that will pay him $1.8 million next season and will shortly be eligible for an extension, but said he hasn’t discussed that yet with the Mavs.

“My agent’s been dealing with all that,” he said. “I just control what I can control right now. And that’s working on my game, and when the time comes we’ll figure it out.”

Brunson also gave his thoughts on Simone Biles, who surprisingly withdrew from the team gymnastics competition of the Olympics on Tuesday so she can focus on her mental health.

“Good for her,” said Brunson, who was a member of the 2015 USA Men’s Basketball U19 World Cup Team. “That takes a lot of guts. Sometimes you need to tell yourself that “I need this.’

“There’s a lot of people always going to be in your ear saying, ‘You can wait, you can wait, you can just push through it, push through it.’ But sometimes you know what’s best for you. I know that she wanted to be out there with her teammates, but I think for her mental state she needed to do that and I applaud her for it.”

Brunson also applauded teammate Luka Doncic for his stunning 48-point, 11-rebound, five-assist performance on Sunday when he guided Slovenia to a 118-100 victory over Argentina in the Olympics. Brunson didn’t actually watch Doncic’s show-stopping performance live, but said:

“I woke up (Monday morning) to Twitter buzzing, so I watched the highlights as fast as I could and it was something we’ve seen before. But it was pretty cool to see him do that on the Olympic stage.”

What would be even cooler, Brunson admits, if somehow Slovenia and the USA team wind up facing off against one other in the Olympics. Brunson believes that prospect will have social media buzzing.

“It’ll be really cool,” he said. “It’ll be really interesting. I think everyone will tune in to that.

“That’ll create a lot of discussions. So we’ll see what happens whenever it happens.”

In the meantime, Brunson is focusing on next season after running some camps back at Villanova and back at his high school in suburban Chicago. He’s also anxious to start the next chapter of his basketball career with a new coach in Kidd, who he watched as a kid engineer a Hall of Fame career that involved him earning 10 NBA All-Star berths and a championship ring with the Mavs.

“The fact that I’m being able to learn from them or play against some of the people that my dad played against, it’s pretty special,” Brunson said. “I’m just really excited.

“He has a great basketball mind, so I’m going to pick his brain as much as I can.”

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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