New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson pulls up for a...

New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson pulls up for a shot on Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes. Credit: AP/José Luis Villegas

SAN FRANCISCO — It began on June 25, 2009 — the regret, the what-ifs and the long, wistful yearning of what could have been if only the Knicks had been able to draft Stephen Curry. And that has continued for 15 years as the Knicks have waited for something of their own close to what Curry has become.

And now, as they prepare to face Golden State at the Chase Center on Monday, maybe they have that.

The Knicks arrive with Jalen Brunson continuing to ascend from a second-round pick (and a free-agent signing who arrived in New York with doubters) to an All-Star and maybe an All-NBA player. He would be the first Knicks point guard to achieve that in nearly 50 years.

He is providing scoring outbursts — 45 points on Thursday and 42 on Saturday, making him the fourth player and first guard in franchise history to put up back-to-back games with at least 40 points — that have drawn head-shaking comparisons with players such as Curry.

“Jalen, man, he’s a hell of a player,” Sacramento coach Mike Brown said after Brunson carried the Knicks past the Kings, 98-91, on Saturday. “I don’t know if — Steph maybe — I don’t know if we blitzed anybody as much as we did Jalen tonight. Tried to send two at him and he still scored 42 points . . . Jalen shot 50% from the three and over 50% from the field and we sent a double-team at him every single time he came off the pick-and-roll in the second half and most of the time, probably half the time or so, in the first half. He’s a hell of a player. Big game, he stepped up and he really helped them get it done tonight.”

With the Knicks’ injury problems, more and more has fallen on the shoulders of the 6-2 point guard, and he has delivered. Brunson is averaging 27.5 points per game, fifth in the NBA behind Luka Doncic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant and ahead of the likes of Jayson Tatum and, yes, Curry.

Like Curry, he provides highlights without getting above the rim. On Saturday, with the Knicks ahead 94-91, he isolated Keon Ellis at the top of the key and called for a pick from a screener that didn’t exist, coaxing Ellis to turn his head to his right. Brunson blew by him for a floater to put the game away.

“You almost come to expect what Jalen did,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It’s every night and it’s big play after big play. Every time we need a big bucket, he comes up with it.”

“He’s just an amazing player, great shot-maker,” OG Anunoby said. “Very deceptive with the ball. Just a super-talented guy.”

“He goes out there, controls the game,” Josh Hart said. “He’s our go-to guy. Great that he was able to kind of get into that company. That’s elite company. Maybe he’ll pass a little bit more next game. But it was good. It was good. Good he’s in that company.”

Brunson has managed this despite the absence for seven weeks of his All-Star partner, Julius Randle. And he has done it in a changing landscape for the NBA. The high-scoring style of the pre-All-Star break, when defenses literally were kept at arm’s length, has changed to the suddenly physical style featured in the 1990s, with officials swallowing their whistles as players are bumped and grabbed.

Brunson had 42 Saturday, and other than shooting a technical foul, he did not go to the free-throw line until 5:46 remained.

“He’s such a gifted shot-maker,” Thibodeau said. “I don’t want to say too much, but I felt he’s getting hit a lot. The best part of him is he never complains. He’s not crying. He’ll just keep going and he’ll focus on making the shot, which he did. Without getting off his game, he just kept going.

“To drive the ball as many times as he does, the physicality, he’s being trapped, they’re pursing him, they’re hitting him, and he only had four free throws. But that’s what I love about him. He’s tough-minded, can figure it out and he knows how the game’s being called. He knows he’s on the road, it’s going to be tough, and that doesn’t slow him down. He doesn’t let the officials impact in any way.”

Actually,  Brunson does complain, but Thibodeau’s point is correct; when his pleading falls on deaf ears, he just adjusts and continues to play through the contact.

“I mean, we’ve just got to adjust,” Brunson said. “We’re just gonna have to adjust game to game.”

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