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Draymond Green can’t say enough good things about Jalen Brunson: ‘Head of the snake’

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Draymond Green can appreciate Jalen Brunson’s story as a former national collegiate player of the year who lasted until the second round of the NBA draft only to become an All-Star.

“I know what that feels like,” Green said with a smile on his YouTube channel podcast after the Knicks defeated the Warriors on Monday night in San Francisco.

Green, the 35th overall pick out of Michigan State in 2012 after being named the NABC National Player of the Year, has made four All-Star teams and has won four NBA titles in 12 seasons with Golden State.

Green recalled facing Brunson, the 33rd pick out of Villanova in 2018 after being the consensus national player of the year as a junior, and the Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals in 2022, but admits he never expected the former Villanova point guard to become the dominant player he has over two seasons since signing with the Knicks as a free agent.

Jalen Brunson and Draymond Green share a laugh during the Knicks’ win over the Warriors. John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

“He is playing at an all-NBA level. It’s good to see him getting his due that he’s getting,” Green said. “I played Jalen Brunson, we did, in the playoffs a couple of years ago with Dallas. That was a totally different player.

“And by the way, he was really good then, so I’m not gonna act like he was a bum then. He was really good then, so much so that in that playoff series, he was my matchup. … So he’s been good, but I’m not sure any of us thought he’d be this. It’s been fun to watch. JB is one of those guys that you cheer for because he’s humble.”

Humility isn’t a word often associated with the outspoken Green, who has been suspended six times in his NBA career, including twice earlier this season.

With Green as his primary defender in that playoff series, Brunson shot just 41 percent overall and 29 percent from 3-point range.

“It made me understand what I had to work on to be better,” Brunson said Monday.

Brunson ranked fifth in the NBA in scoring through Monday’s action with 27.6 points per game.

Jalen Brunson goes up for a layup as Draymond Green (left) and Andrew Wiggins defend during the Knicks’ win. John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

He also was praised by Green as “the head of the snake” for the Knicks and “almost impossible” to guard, especially in pick-and-roll sets.

“It’s tough defending him. … He’s so crafty, man,” Green said. “Jalen Brunson is a three-level scorer. He can finish at the rim, he can finish in the mid-range, he got a floater, he got a 3, he got a pull-up. He can score at all levels.

“And so for me personally, I’d rather guard him one-on-one than guard him in the pick-and-roll. … The thing is, with most guys, when you blitz them, they get sped up. He never gets sped up. He plays at his own pace, so even if you blitz, he’s gonna wait ’til the floor opens up, and he’s gonna make his move. And interestingly enough, it works every night.”

Brunson followed up back-to-back 40-point games with 34 in Monday’s victory as the Knicks (41-27) improved to 3-0 on this western swing ahead of Thursday’s finale against the Nuggets.

Jalen Brunson drives on Stephen Curry during the Knicks’ win over the Warriors. AP

Miles McBride also netted a career-high 29 points in 46-plus minutes against the Warriors, and Josh Hart played all 48 while notching his fifth career triple-double, all in the last 21 games.

“Josh Hart is playing out of his mind,” Green said. “And when I say out of his mind, I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way. I don’t mean that like he’s not capable. But I think Josh Hart has four triple-doubles in the last two or three weeks. He’s playing incredible basketball.

“When you look at that trade, [Portland] gave him away for a pack of peanuts, and it’s been a great addition.”

The Knicks acquired Hart from the Trail Blazers at last season’s trade deadline for Cam Reddish and what turned out to be the 23rd overall pick in 2023 (Kris Murray).

Green also praised “my guy DiVo” — former Warriors teammate Donte DiVincenzo — and the Knicks overall for continuing to win games despite the injury absences of Mitchell Robinson, Julius Randle and OG Anunoby.

“Them boys look good,” Green said. “Gotta take your hat off to them, regardless of all the injuries they’ve been dealing with, they are playing at a very, very high level.

“And it starts with the head of the snake Jalen Brunson, and then Josh Hart and Donte, and Miles McBride got off against us. But those three guys in particular, they’re doing it night in and night out. Hate to be on the wrong end of it, but Jalen Brunson, in particular, is an extremely tough guard and he gave us hell [Monday night].”

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