The' Knicks Jalen Brunson speaks at a press conference during training...

The' Knicks Jalen Brunson speaks at a press conference during training camp at the team's training facility in Tarrytown, N.Y., on Sept. 29. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — In the NBA, a league enamored with highlight-reel dunks and a growing legion of 6-7 point guards, it’s understandable that Jalen Brunson sometimes slipped off the radar — including falling to the second round of the 2018 NBA Draft after leading Villanova to a pair of NCAA championships. And in Luka Doncic’s considerable shadow it surprised some that Brunson was able to take over in the playoffs when Doncic was sidelined.

But the Knicks, with their well-chronicled history with Brunson, knew what he was and didn’t hesitate — the NBA investigation will decide whether they actually jumped the gun — to sign him to a four-year contract to take over as the much-needed point guard for the franchise. 

“Basically, he grew up in our gym,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “…So when you look at what he’s done – the best part of him is his willingness to sacrifice. So I think when he went to Villanova his freshman year, he played off the ball there. He brought it up, got rid of it, moved without it. And that creates pace and movement and good decision-making. In Dallas he started off in a secondary role and just gets better and better. 

“Sometimes he can fool you because he doesn’t necessarily look the part, but he is the part. His mind is spectacular the way he sees the game, and that’s a big plus for us.”

Just three days into practice it seems evident that the 6-1, 190-pound Brunson, despite his diminutive frame and humble beginnings in the league, is taking on a leadership role for a team in need of one. In recent seasons the argument has gone that Julius Randle was the face of the franchise and that RJ Barrett is the future. But after last season’s struggles, Brunson might provide what even those two need.

Growing up in New Jersey, he was back home this summer and would cross the bridge to the Knicks practice site to join his new teammates, starting to build a chemistry that has been lacking. 

“I just wanted an opportunity like that and I think this is the perfect place to be,” Brunson said. “I think my teammates that I have now, they’ve been great. I’m not trying to, you could say, run a team. I’m trying to fit in, I’m trying to be the best version of myself, I’m trying to be a leader. And just doing whatever it takes, given those characteristics, to win games

“I approach [leadership] differently with different people. I gotta know my audience, I gotta know how I can lead, who I can lead, things like that. So it’s knowing your audience, who you’re talking to and how you can get them to respond in a positive way.”

He took a step into the spotlight in the playoffs last season, scoring 41 and 31 points when Doncic was sidelined in the Mavericks' playoff wins over Utah. If it took that to open some eyes he isn’t concerned, laughing at Thibodeau’s take that Brunson doesn’t necessarily look the part, but he is the part.

“People are going to say whatever they want to say,” Brunson said. “It’s been that way my entire career dating back to high school. Middle school, whatever. You just find ways to, you’re not necessarily trying to find ways to prove people wrong but prove yourself right and prove that you belong. I’m just trying to prove to myself that I belong here and fit in as best I can.”

NOTES & QUOTES: Quentin Grimes was held out of practice for the second straight day with a sore left foot and with the team off Friday will be reassessed Saturday. … Evan Fournier was given a rest day Thursday to get a two-day breather, having only arrived recently from Eurobasket, where France went all the way to the final.