Back on March 13 – two days after the NBA season was suspended until further notice because of the coronavirus pandemic – Jalen Brunson underwent surgery to address an injury to the labrum of his right shoulder.
Since then, the Dallas Mavericks’ second-year guard has been rehabbing his shoulder while patiently waiting for the season to re-start. In the meantime, Brunson sat down with Mavs.com on Friday to discuss a variety of topics, including his thoughts on a pair of very popular docuseries – Tiger King and The Last Dance.
Mavs.com: What have you been doing since the NBA season was suspended on March 11?
Jalen Brunson: I’ve been just catching up with old people, old friends. Playing video games, watching TV shows, watching a little bit of basketball, old basketball, high school basketball, college. . .just trying to keep my mind occupied.
Mavs.com: When will your shoulder be 100 percent? Have they given you a timetable?
Brunson: The timetable was four-to-six months after the surgery. I’m only seven weeks out from the surgery, but it’s going pretty well.
Mavs.com: If the NBA says you guys are going to come back and play, let’s say, hypothetically, in July, would you be ready to play in July?
Brunson: I hope. But this period, it’s kind of been ruled out. But I have no idea. As of right now I’ve been kind of ruled out of the remainder of the season. But we have no idea when the season actually is going to pick back up, so we shall see.
Mavs.com: How long do you think it’ll take players to get back in shape if the season is restarted?
Brunson: I have no idea. I think once things start to turn downward, how it progresses downward, I think things will start re-opening up. But the sad part about that is you don’t know when the second wave could hit. There’s a lot of uncertainty right now, which is very unusual for a lot of people, including myself, because there’s always a certain schedule, there’s always certain things, certain dates. But right now everything is just so uncertain, so no one really has a clue.
Mavs.com: How frustrating is all this because the Mavericks were getting ready to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016?
Brunson: It’s definitely frustrating, because of the position we put ourselves in to make the playoffs. But I think honestly the trend that we’re going as a team, I think it’s going to continue to get better no matter when we start back up. We just have a lot of good pieces and a lot of good chemistry for us to continue to get better. We just have to wait this out and just get back and get back to work.
Mavs.com: Take me back to March 11 when you heard during that game against Denver that, unfortunately, that was going to be the last game until further notice. What was your immediate reaction?
Brunson: I was just thinking, ‘Wow! This is really happening. We’re kind of living in history right now. Like, this time will be in history books, and people down the line will be learning about this time.’ It’s very, very weird, and my first reaction was I’m dumbfounded. It was so weird to me.
Mavs.com: If the season does restart and NBA games are played without fans, what’s your reaction to that?
Brunson: I’m OK with that. I think to be able to play basketball again – no matter if fans are there or not — I think it’s going to bring livelihood back to the country and even the world. Trying to bring back sports would be what everyone’s looking forward to. So, with or without fans I think it’s going to be good.
Mavs.com: I’m pretty sure you’re probably like the rest of us – you’re probably watching more TV than you’ve ever watched before. Do you have any favorite TV shows that you’ve been watching?
Brunson: I’ve watched a lot of TV shows. I like Tiger King. It’s very, very interesting. That was pretty good. I’ve watched a lot of movies. I’ve watched more movies than TV shows, because I’m not really ready to commit to a long TV show.
Mavs.com: What did you like about Joe Exotic and everything that was going on in that Tiger King docuseries?
Brunson: It was comical, but at the same time just so interesting. I never knew that little feud (between Joe Exotic and Carole Baskins) was going on. It was brought to light by this documentary, so it was pretty interesting. It’s definitely something that was the highlight of this quarantine.
Mavs.com: You know some that of happened in Oklahoma about a couple hours north of Dallas?
Brunson: That’s the crazy part. It’s so close. It’s very close.
Mavs.com: We’re over seven weeks into the season being suspended. If you could be NBA commissioner Adam Silver, what would you do in this situation?
Brunson: For the safety of the players and everything like that, I would definitely continue just to wait until we are for sure about some things like the safety of playing NBA basketball and the safety of our lives. You don’t think about how much contact people come into in the game of basketball. Everyone is touching that ball. Think of all the people who touch the ball who come in contact with people off the court and outside the court. I would just continue to wait. There’s no rushing this right now.
Mavs.com: Have you been watching The Last Dance on ESPN? What’s your impression of it?
Brunson: I love it. I love watching and seeing Michael Jordan evolve as being one of the best players to ever play the game, and then watching him become a leader. He was the leader of that team. Being able to see how he brought guys together and how he made his teammates better, it was really cool to see that a player of that caliber was able to do that and kind of talk to them and reach out and say, ‘This is what I need to do for us to win,’ and he did it. So, watching that from that aspect was pretty cool.
Mavs.com: There’s always been talk about who’s the greatest player of all-time – Michael Jordan or LeBron James. Does what you’ve seen in The Last Dance put that conversation to rest?
Brunson: It’s definitely not going to put it to rest, because people are still going to argue about it. I love Michael Jordan’s mentality and what he did. I know obviously I’m a little young and I didn’t get to witness that, but it’s pretty special what he did. That’s no discredit to LeBron. He’s great in his own way as well. They’re like 1A and 1B – two great players that play in this league. And one player you also can’t forget about is the late Kobe Bryant. He’s one of my favorite players ever too, and he did some things that a lot people can’t say they did. There’s so many greats that there honestly shouldn’t be any comparisons. But we know how the social media age is now. They’re always going to be comparing things, so that conversation is never going to die.
Mavs.com: A lot of states have lifted rules where people can go shopping and sit down in restaurants and eat. Do you feel comfortable doing that right now?
Brunson: Probably not. I think for me, the moment I kind of start to be feeling normalcy again is when everything will be getting back to normal. So I think I’m going to keep taking precautions at this point.