By Tommy Matthews

Jalen Brunson is a great player.

But did he learn nothing at Villanova?

Brunson is unquestionably a max player whose next contract should be massive.

There is also a long history of star max players taking a little bit less to help a team deal with the salary cap or bring in another player (LeBron James just did it days ago, taking nearly $3 million less to keep the Lakers below the second tax apron).

But $113 million less? In the player’s prime? Unheard of.

Here’s how Pro Basketball Talk describes it:

Brunson is considering it, according to Fred Katz at The Athletic. To set the stage: On July 12, the Knicks can extend Brunson off the $24.9 million he is set to make next season, a max of four years, $156.5 million; if Brunson waits until next summer and becomes a free agent then re-signs, New York can give him a five-year, $269.1 million new contract.

The Knicks can’t make their official offer until Friday, but he knows it’s coming. And to this point, according to a league source, signing the extension is still under consideration…

But why? The first reason the extension remains on the table, according to a league source, is security. Brunson has no interest in playing elsewhere, according to sources close to him. He has referred to the Knicks as “family” — in some cases, literally…

[The second reason is] Brunson understands the NBA’s new financial world, the one with two aprons, where front offices fear compiling too high a payroll and thus losing most of their resources… Brunson understands the issues the current CBA causes with team building. A league source says it’s one reason he’s considering taking the cheaper extension, which could help the Knicks avoid the second apron in the immediate future, giving the franchise a better chance to win its first championship since 1973.

The second apron has been the biggest winner in NBA free agency. Billionaires are afraid of crossing it and using it as an excuse. Go above that line, and teams not only pay a steeper tax but also face considerable team-building restrictions, such as no mid-level exception to use, a team can’t take back more money in a trade than it sends out, no aggregation of salaries, and the list goes on and on.

The Knicks are flirting with the second apron this season as OG Anunoby’s new max contract kicks in. Next season, Brunson’s salary will jump with the extension, and Julius Randle is also currently extension-eligible (which is why his name pops up in people speculating about trades). Two seasons out, in the summer of 2026, Mikal Bridges and Mitchell Robinson will be free agents needing to be re-signed. While the salary cap is rising, it’s not going up that fast. The Knicks have some hard decisions coming in the future.

It’s admirable that Brunson is considering helping the franchise out like this. After next season, he will have made $85 million in salary in his seven NBA seasons. This next contract changes that — even the extension is nearly twice what he made in the league up to this point.

However, that $269.1 million max contract is true generational wealth — his kids and grandkids will never have to worry about money. That kind of security for your family means a lot. He’s earned it, he is the biggest basketball star in the nation’s biggest market and hoops hotbed. He is worth that salary to the Knicks both on the court and in terms of what he generates for the club in sponsorship, ticket sales and other revenue — people tune in to watch Brunson play.

We may find out this weekend what Brunson ultimately decides.

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