New York Knicks

Jalen Brunson spearheads Knicks to NBA playoff berth with 2024 Paris Olympics ambitions in sight

"The goal is for us to win it all down the line," Brunson exclusively told NBC about the Knicks entering the playoffs

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The New York Knicks are headed to the 2024 NBA playoffs while avoiding the play-in tournament for the second consecutive year. A key part of the success has been guard Jalen Brunson.

The 47-32 squad clinched a top-six playoff spot in the Eastern Conference after the Heat fell to the Mavericks on Wednesday night. While the Knicks still have three regular season games against the Celtics, Nets and Bulls to determine their ultimate fate in the bracket, Brunson made his intentions in the postseason very clear.

"The goal is for us to win it all down the line ... but we gotta take every step of the way now with a grain of salt," Brunson exclusively told NBC about making a playoff run. "We can't look ahead -- take the task at the moment and just focus on what we have to do."

The Knicks can fall anywhere from second to sixth in the conference with these spots separated by just three games. Heading into Thursday's slate, the Cavaliers are at No. 4, the Magic sit at No. 5 and the Pacers are No. 6.

Since signing with the Knicks in 2022 as a free agent, Brunson has elevated his game, becoming a 2024 NBA All-Star along with setting a pair of NBA records with his 3-point shooting. Another highlight for Brunson came in March when he scored 61 points, one point shy of the organization's single scoring record, in the Knicks' loss to the Spurs. Carmelo Anthony went for 62 points in January 2014.

Brunson's aspirations are even higher this year as he hopes to score a spot on Team USA's men's basketball roster at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

While he was part of the 41-athlete player pool for the team announced in January, there are still several steps that must be taken before he officially books a spot. The team's selection process and training will continue over the next several months and the 12 member team will be announced at a later date.

"It's definitely on my radar but it's something I just can't control right now," Brunson said.

Regardless of his presence, Brunson believes the 15-time gold medalists will take home the win.

But what has been the key to Brunson skillfully balancing his aspirations while propelling the Knicks? The 27-year-old says it is his leadership.

"I just see myself as a leader first and foremost," Brunson said. "That's just how I've always been and no matter really who's on the team, I just feel that I lead by what I say and what I do."

Speaking of leadership, the former Villanova star was part of the 2016 and 2018 Wildcat teams that won the NCAA Tournament. He still plays alongside his college roommates and teammates Donte DiVincenzo and Josh Hart six years later.

The “NovaKnicks” and the rest of the squad will be in Boston on Thursday before returning home to face off against the Nets and the Bulls on Friday and Sunday, respectively, capping off the Knicks' regular season schedule.

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