Jalen Brunson’s knack for drawing charges becoming Knicks weapon

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Jalen Brunson's knack for drawing charges becoming Knicks weapon

TORONTO — Donte DiVincenzo can still hear Jay Wright yelling about it.

Maybe traumatized isn’t the right word, but DiVincenzo remains annoyed by Jalen Brunson drawing charges.

“He did it in practice,” DiVincenzo said about their sessions as teammates at Villanova. “In practice. I hated it. I got the charge every time.”

By that point, Brunson had already cultivated the skill of drawing a charge, saying he picked up the knack in high school or “maybe even before.”

It’s a combination of smarts, instincts and guts that has become, sneakily, one of the Knicks’ biggest defensive weapons.

After Friday’s 119-106 victory over the Raptors, Brunson, the star point guard, had drawn 14 charges, ranking first in the NBA and three above Orlando’s No. 2 Mo Wagner.

Nobody else on the Knicks has more than two.

Perhaps more impressive, Brunson has drawn 16 non-charge offensive fouls, meaning from illegal screens, pushoffs and other forms of induction, according to PBPstats.com.

His 30 total drawn offensive fouls places Brunson on pace for the league record.


New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) drives at the Toronto Raptors defense. AP

Predictably, Tom Thibodeau is enthused.

“It’s anticipation,” the coach said. “When you ask, ‘Is it a skill?’ Yeah, and it tells you a lot about how his mind works. He’s able to read plays and anticipate what’s happening. And his willingness to give up his body, and sacrifice that for the team, that’s how you win, and that’s how you win big.”

Brunson adopted the strategy out of necessity. He’s strong and quick but short with a humble vertical, diminishing the chances of success for any block attempts. The lack of athleticism and size is why Brunson has long carried a reputation of a subpar defender.

But equipped with chutzpah, Brunson certainly isn’t hopeless.

He plants his feet, closes his eyes and stands still.


New York Knicks' Jalen Brunson, right, keeps the ball from Detroit Pistons' Isaiah Livers during the second half of an NBA basketball game
New York Knicks’ Jalen Brunson, right, keeps the ball from Detroit Pistons’ Isaiah Livers during the second half of an NBA basketball game. AP

“Obviously I’m not meeting anybody at the rim. So I know I can impact the game that way,” Brunson told The Post. “So whatever it takes to win, honestly. I find myself in that position and if I bail out, I’m bailing out on my teammates. So I got to be willing to take the contact and pray for the best.”

There’s an art to falling after absorbing the contact, Brunson said, but it’s not complicated.

“First, you kind of have to brace yourself. And you don’t really fall flat,” Brunson said. “You just have to figure out how to fall. Don’t fall flat. That’s the big thing.”

Thus far, Brunson has avoided major injuries off charges but made sure to knock on the wood of his locker in Toronto.

Underscoring the importance of such a play, Brunson’s second charge drawn Friday against Pascal Siakam — which occurred because of RJ Barrett’s olé defense on the perimeter — was not long before New York’s game-breaking 12-2 run to the end the third quarter.

“You get the same benefit from a charge as you do from a blocked shot,” Thibodeau said. “We have elite rim protection with [centers] Mitch [Robinson] and Isaiah [Hartenstein], but we also have guys who are willing to step in and take charges.”

It’s an overlooked aspect of Brunson’s early season success, as the kudos focuses on his career-best 24.9 points per game on a career-best 47.7 percent from beyond the arc. Offensive fouls drawn stat is akin to steals and blocks in terms of impact, but with more pain risk and less prestige.

Thibs has certainly noticed. DiVincenzo recognized it a long time ago.

“The fact that Jalen’s willing to that night after night, it says a lot about him and how much he cares about winning,” the coach said. “And I think those type of plays, you can’t help but get fired up and it inspires people. You get a couple of those plays, a couple hustle plays, and the next thing you know you’re on a 10-point run.”

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