Obi Toppin

Knicks Notes: Toppin, Quickley, Ntilikina, Randle

Obi Toppin has been the Knicks‘ more productive rookie in the playoffs, while Immanuel Quickley is struggling to find his game, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post. Toppin is coming off a career-best 13-point outburst in Game 4, and there’s talk of playing him and Julius Randle together to help turn the series around.

“I just really feel like I’ve just been locked in, studying a lot of film, paying attention to every little detail possible that I need for each game,” Toppin said. “I feel like the more details I know on the defensive side, I feel like the offensive side will just come to me if I just play my basketball and play team basketball.”

As a lottery pick, Toppin was expected to be a difference maker right away, but Quickley, who was taken at No. 25, had the better regular season, averaging 11.4 points per game and becoming a regular part of the backcourt rotation. His shot has deserted him in the playoffs, as he’s hitting just 29.6% from the field and scoring 4.5 PPG.

“I love it when people count me out,” Quickley said. “I feel like that’s how my whole life in basketball has been, when people say you can’t do something or you’re not good enough or that’s not possible. I feel like that kind of drives our team as well. When we came into this season, everybody was expecting us to be in the lottery.”

There’s more on the Knicks:

  • Derrick Rose will likely remain in the starting lineup for Game 5, but coach Tom Thibodeau sidestepped a question about playing Frank Ntilikina, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Ntilikina has only been used for three defensive possessions throughout the entire series. “I think Derrick is proven to be a very good player in this league for a long time,’’ Thibodeau said. “As a team we have to play better. We know that. In terms of Frank, he’s an important part of the team.”
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic examines the adjustments the Hawks have made to slow down Randle, who averaged 37.3 PPG against them in the regular season. Randle, who is in the playoffs for the first time in his career, has been forced to deal with two and sometimes three defenders every time he catches the ball.
  • A fan accused of throwing a beer at the Knicks’ bench during Game 2 has been permanently banned from Madison Square Garden, Berman writes in a separate story.

Knicks Notes: Bullock, Toppin, Quickley, Crowd Size

Reggie Bullock has taken advantage of the chance to prove he can be a long-term fixture with the Knicks, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. Bullock arrived at training camp with just a small guarantee on this season’s contract, but he quickly proved his worth to new coach Tom Thibodeau and earned a spot in the starting lineup.

“I felt like I was starting at zero, but I knew what type of coach he was,” Bullock said. “I never played for him, but I knew that he was a hard-nosed type of coach, and I felt like he could be a coach to bring the best out of me, which he is doing. The things that he expects on the offensive and defensive end plays to my skill set. … He has a lot of belief in me, I have a lot of belief in him to prepare our team and myself, second to none in this league.”

Bullock is New York’s best perimeter defender and a dangerous outside shooter, connecting at 41% from beyond the arc this season. He figures to be an offseason priority for the Knicks in free agency and would love to get a long-term deal to stay with the team.

“I found a home,” said Bullock, who has played for five teams in eight seasons. “I’m just happy and excited to have actually found a place where a coach and organization believe in the things that I do on both ends of the floor.”

There’s more from New York:

  • Rookie forward Obi Toppin is likely to see his playing time reduced in the first-round series against Atlanta, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Sources tell Berman that the Hawks expect to see more minutes for Julius Randle and veteran backup Taj Gibson, who may be used at power forward as well as center, and fewer for Toppin.
  • Fellow rookie Immanuel Quickley will continue to play an important role in the playoffs, Berman adds in the same story. Quickley is looking forward to the postseason opportunity after having the NCAA tournament canceled last year. “When you play in postseason on any level, the level of intensity is intensified,” he said. “It’s usually low-scoring and defense. Just watching it all my life, watching the playoffs, it’s always been kind of cool. It’s going to be even more fun to be out there with my teammates.’’
  • After playing without home crowds for most of the season, the Knicks are excited to have 15,000 fans at Madison Square Garden for today’s playoff opener, tweets Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. “I do think the home crowd is going to help us a lot,” RJ Barrett said. “It was loud when it was 2,000 people in here. 15,000 is going to be crazy.”

Knicks Rumors: Offseason, Randle, Toppin, Powell

The Knicks took a patient approach to the 2020 offseason, opting not to pursue impact players like Russell Westbrook via trade or Fred VanVleet via free agency, per Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, and that approach has paid off so far this season. Many of the lower-cost veterans New York did add, including Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel, have played key roles on a team that is currently 34-27, fourth in the East.

Given this year’s success, there will be a “cohort” of New York’s front office eager to push to add more impactful talent during the 2021 offseason, Fischer writes.

“Now the goal posts have been moved,” a person with knowledge of the situation told Bleacher Report. “Thibs (head coach Tom Thibodeau) isn’t going to want to rebuild. He has a lot of power, and there’s some momentum.”

While Thibodeau and other Knicks decision-makers may want to be aggressive in free agency, the club could again opt to take more of a middle ground, according to Fischer. One potential route would be re-signing Burks and Noel to one-year contracts and attempting to add an impact outside free agent, such as Kyle Lowry, on a short-term deal. Fischer hears that Lowry is expected to seek a multiyear commitment, but perhaps a lucrative one-year offer from the Knicks could entice him.

Fischer’s deep dive into the Knicks’ present and future includes many more interesting tidbits. Here are some highlights:

  • There’s some skepticism around the NBA that Julius Randle‘s increased three-point efficiency is sustainable (he’s making 41.6% this season after entering the season as a 29.5% three-point shooter). And Fischer says the Knicks did, at least briefly, consider the possibility of trading Randle earlier this season when his value was on the rise. However, he hasn’t tailed off at all after his hot start. “Everyone knew Randle was a good player, but nobody thought he could be the best player on a playoff team,” one assistant GM told Fischer. “Now I’d vote for him second-team All-NBA, and there’s no question he should be Most Improved.”
  • Given Randle’s success this season, that assistant GM who spoke to Fischer wondered how much the Knicks’ enthusiasm for Obi Toppin – who plays the same position as Randle – might have waned in recent months. “You can’t really play him and Randle together,” the assistant GM said, speculating that the rookie could become a trade candidate. “There’s no runway for him to be successful there.”
  • The Knicks’ play this season has increased the appeal of the organization as a free agent destination in the eyes of agents, Fischer writes. “If you wanted to be part of a good organization and win, you couldn’t possibly send anyone there (before this year). And that’s changed with Thibs and (assistant coach) Kenny (Payne),” one agent said to Bleacher Report. “Even in the draft, if we had someone who wanted to go there and was maybe an immature kid and needed good people around them to grow them as a pro, you couldn’t send him there.”
  • Fischer reiterates that Lonzo Ball, a restricted free agent this summer, has some big fans within the Knicks’ front office, and reports that Norman Powell is another free-agent-to-be who may draw interest from the club. Thibodeau is known to like Powell, sources tell Fischer.

Knicks Notes: Toppin, Core Duo, Thibs, Payton

Knicks rookie Obi Toppin was able to carve out more minutes on Saturday as All-Star Julius Randle‘s backup thanks to his improved long-range shooting touch, as he went 3-for-4 from deep, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post. Toppin scored nine points in 8:38 of game action for a 120-103 New York victory over the Raptors. He earned a commendation from Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau.

“Obi has been practicing great, I thought he played great tonight,’’ Thibodeau said. “He puts a lot of time into his shooting. He’s coming back at night. He’s grooving his shot so I think he’s gaining confidence. He’s practicing well too when we do practice. His concentration has improved. So he’s an important part of the second unit.’’

There’s more out of New York:

  • After the Knicks whiffed on signing free agent superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving during the summer of 2019, the team has recovered admirably with an intriguing core duo, per Steve Popper of Newsday. New York pivoted by signing forward Julius Randle to a now-bargain three-year, $63MM deal that summer and selecting RJ Barrett with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 draft. Head coach Tom Thibodeau has helped strengthen that core. “I wanted to see where he was conditioning-wise, get to know him a little bit,” Thibodeau said of Randle. “He’s our engine, and he’s been a great leader right from the start.”
  • Knicks second-year forward Barrett supports coach Tom Thibodeau as a Coach of the Year contender for the 2020/21 season, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv. With Thibodeau’s addition, the Knicks are currently riding a season-high nine-game win streak to a 34-27 record and own the East’s No. 4 seed. Thibodeau has clearly been instrumental in the development of Barrett and Randle. “We all believe in Thibs,” Barrett said. “He’s done a tremendous job in how he’s turned everything around. The way he has us playing hard every single night and we’re getting wins. The whole staff, every day, we’re working hard, just pushing us. It’s a great feeling. I’m sure the fans see how hard we’re working and having them in the Garden has been great overall.’’
  • Starting Knicks point guard Elfrid Payton is losing playing time to key reserves Immanuel Quickley and Derrick Rose, notes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Yesterday, Payton logged his second-lowest minutes total (14:44) in a game in which he was available this year. Vorkonuv wonders if Thibodeau will at some point switch out Quickley or Rose to start, though both players have been excellent bench cogs.

New York Notes: Nash, Marks, Toppin, Johnson, Pelle

Nets head coach Steve Nash recently praised general manager Sean Marks for constructing an impressive culture and roster, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. While both areas were strong before the season began, the recent signings of veterans Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge only helped strength Brooklyn’s culture – and roster – as the team continues its quest of winning a championship.

“Sean deserves the credit for pushing these things over the line and for having a vision to execute,” Nash said. “It may look straightforward and simple from the outside, but a lot goes into all these decisions, and Sean is very thorough in his approach, with the whole front office and then opinions from all the other departments as well.

“He’s done an unbelievable job, not just this year but in building the prior culture that was here before this team was here, building that position of strength and leverage for the roster over the course of the year. So I hope everyone understands what a great job he’s done and what a thorough and well-thought-out process he has. It’s been outstanding.”

Here are some other notes out of the Atlantic:

  • Knicks rookie Obi Toppin is gaining confidence as he continues to play with aggression, Barbara Barker of Newsday writes. Toppin scored eight points in 15 minutes off the bench against the Pistons on Friday. “I really like the way he’s been playing,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He played extremely well in the first half.” On the season, Toppin is averaging just 4.3 points and 2.2 rebounds in 11.8 minutes per game.
  • Nets guard Tyler Johnson will receive a scan on Monday after sustaining a knee injury against Chicago, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post (Twitter link). The team called the injury a right knee strain before ruling the 28-year-old out for the rest of the game, Malika Andrews of ESPN tweets. Johnson had to be helped off the court and was unable to put any weight on his leg.
  • Knicks 10-day player Norvel Pelle showed toughness after suffering a finger injury in his first game with the team on Saturday, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Pelle dislocated his finger, received treatment, and continued to play on despite suffering the injury. “Seeing a player like that that just joined us to go down with an injury and be able to wrap it right back up and make big blocks showed his energy,” Reggie Bullock said. “He’s a Knick type of player with the grit to continue to play in the game. We love that fight from him.’’ Pelle is currently listed a probable to play against Brooklyn on Monday, Berman tweets.

Atlantic Notes: Griffin, Nurse, Curry, Toppin

Blake Griffin is close to making his Nets debut, coach Steve Nash told the media on Friday (hat tip to NetsDaily.com). Griffin is traveling with the team on its current road trip. “He looks good, is improving, and is working hard off the floor as well,” Nash said. “I think he is addressing all of the things he needed to address to land safely back in the game and transition into our team, which is not always easy. … He has to adapt to the way that we play, new teammates, new system, and new style.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Raptors coach Nick Nurse hinted that his team’s troubles go beyond COVID-19 related absences, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. With OG Anunoby returning on Friday, the Raptors have all of the players who were under the league’s healthy and safety protocols back in action. Toronto lost to Utah on Friday, its seventh straight defeat, and Nurse seemed to indicate the team needs more help. “We’re getting our (butts) kicked at the rim on both ends, not rebounding,” he said. “I mean the ship has got holes all over the place that we’re trying to patch up.”
  • Sixers guard Seth Curry will miss at least two games due to a sprained left ankle, Derek Bodner of The Athletic tweets. He’ll be re-evaluated after Sunday’s game against New York. Philadelphia plays Sacramento on Saturday.
  • Knicks lottery pick Obi Toppin has seen his playing time drop in recent games, Barbara Barker of Newsday notes. Toppin has played single-digit minutes in his last four outings and has gone scoreless the last three games. Julius Randle has averaged 40 MPG over that stretch, which has led to Toppin’s lack of activity.

New York Notes: Toppin, Harden, Thibs, Kyrie

Knicks rookie forward Obi Toppin is making his Slam-Dunk Contest debut tonight. His father, Obadiah – an international pro who was nicknamed “Dunkers Delight” – was his top basketball reference point in his youth, and his primary dunking influence, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

“I grew up watching him,” Toppin said. “Every team he played on he was — his name was Dunkers Delight, so that speaks for itself.” The 23-year-old rookie, the No. 8 pick out of Dayton in 2020, is averaging 12.7 MPG for the upstart Knicks.

There’s more out of the Big Apple:

  • All-Star (and potential MVP candidate) James Harden has already proved his mettle on the Nets, writes Greg Logan of Newsday. The Nets boast a 17-6 record across Harden’s first 23 games Brooklyn, and Harden’s 345 total assists (11.1 APG) this season currently lead the NBA. “So far, so good,” Harden said Wednesday. “Everything I signed up for. Top to bottom, it’s been great. Adversity has hit us . . . we’re affected by injuries, guys in and out of lineups, crazy, weird things happening. But I think we’ve fought through adversity and we’re in a really good position.”
  • The addition of new Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau has helped New York return to respectability eight years after its last playoff appearance, but the team is not yet close to actual title contention, writes Zach Harper of The Athletic“(I) wouldn’t say (Thibodeau) wasn’t considered a good coach anymore,” a Western Conference executive said to Harper. “People know he can coach. But it’s tough to gauge how much of that was the Wolves organization with their issues and how much of it was Tom not being a modern coach.”
  • Nets All-Star Kyrie Irving opted out of his mandatory media video conference today before the All-Star game in Atlanta this evening, without notifying the league ahead of time. Marc Berman of the New York Post wonders if Irving may receive another fine from the league, which penalized him with a $25K charge for skipping his Media Day press obligations.

Simons, Stanley, Toppin To Compete In Dunk Contest

Anfernee Simons of the Trail Blazers, Cassius Stanley of the Pacers, and Obi Toppin of the Knicks will compete for the annual Slam Dunk title at halftime of the All-Star game on Sunday at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, the NBA announced in a press release.

Simons, a 6’3” guard, is averaging 8.2 PPG in his third NBA season. Stanley is a 6’5″ rookie guard on a two-way contract after being selected in the second round last fall. He recorded a maximum vertical leap of 44 inches in the 2020 draft combine. Toppin, a 6’9″ rookie forward and lottery pick, is averaging 4.6 PPG in 25 games off the bench.

The 3-Point Contest, which will be held prior to the game, has a lot more star power. Suns guard Devin Booker and Warriors guard Stephen Curry, former winners of the long-ball contest, head the list of participants. The Celtics’ Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the Bulls’ Zach LaVine and the Jazz‘s Donovan Mitchell round out the six-man field.

The Skills Challenge, which will also be held prior to the game, also has plenty of All-Star firepower. Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and Suns guard Chris Paul head that six-man listKnicks forward Julius Randle, Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis, Magic center Nikola Vucevic and Trail Blazers forward Robert Covington round out the field.

Knicks Notes: Rose, Ntilikina, Toppin, Quickley

Derrick Rose has shown Knicks fans that he can still ignite an offense, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. With Elfrid Payton injured, Rose stepped into the starting lineup Thursday and scored 18 points as New York put up 140 in a win over Sacramento.

“My confidence has always been there even though I’m not the same player, reckless or explosive player,” said Rose, who is averaging 11.8 PPG in eight games since being acquired from the Pistons. “I feel like I’m skilled. I felt like I’ve been working on my game prior to having — I mean, after all my injuries it’s about just showing it and adapting.”

Popper notes that one of the initial fears among fans was that Rose’s addition might take away minutes from rookie guard Immanuel Quickley. Instead, Rose has adopted a mentor’s role and they have often played together in the backcourt. Tom Thibodeau, who also coached Rose in Chicago and Minnesota, has watched his game progress over the years.

“I think his quickness is the same,” Thibodeau said. “And obviously I think as players get older, what they do is they get experience and they add things to their games. So he’s a lot different than he was when he was 22. And obviously, that athleticism is different now. But he also has the knowledge of all the experiences he’s been through.”

There’s more on the Knicks:

  • Frank Ntilikina put up decent numbers Thursday after not playing in two months, but it won’t guarantee him more playing time, Popper adds in a separate story. Ntilikina posted seven points, three steals, two assists and a plus-17 rating in 23 minutes. However, Thibodeau is reluctant to expand his 10-man rotation, and Ntilikina is likely headed back to the bench when Payton returns.
  • An early injury and Julius Randle‘s breakout season have prevented Obi Toppin from making an impact as a rookie, but he may get to display his skills in the Slam Dunk Contest, Popper notes in another piece. Toppin was a prolific dunker in college and has been a fan of the event for years. “It’s been a lot of guys in the dunk contest that I’ve been watching through my life that have really good dunks,” he said. “If the time comes for me to be in it and they say I’m in the dunk contest I’ll have to do a lot of studying and hopefully come up with something nobody’s seen.”
  • The Knicks would benefit from inserting Quickley in their starting lineup, argues Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer. Thibodeau’s preferred starting unit has a negative net rating, but the number is much better when Quickley, rather than Payton, is on the floor with the four other starters.

Atlantic Notes: Pritchard, Brown, Toppin, Rose

Payton Pritchard has emerged as the top reserve on an otherwise thin Celtics bench, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps writes. Pritchard, who made six 3-pointers against Toronto on Thursday, has thrived as an off-the-ball guard whose shot opposing defenses have to respect. That provides Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown with space to operate and the 26th pick in last year’s draft has also held his own defensively.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Brown is dealing with tendonitis in his left knee, radio show Toucher and Rich tweets. GM Danny Ainge said the team will keep close tabs on Brown’s knee issue. Brown has appeared in 22 of Boston’s 24 games entering Friday’s action, averaging 26 PPG in 33.2 MPG.
  • Knicks rookie forward Obi Toppin could reap benefits from playing with recently-acquired Derrick Rose, Steve Popper of Newsday notes. Toppin was fouled while dunking off a pass from Rose against Miami on Tuesday. Toppin could return to his rim-running ways in college, rather than be used a spot-up shooter. “Playing with him, he plays with speed. He looks to find guys,” Toppin said of Rose. “So playing with this team, period, is amazing, but Derrick, having him here now is amazing.”
  • The Knicks will start allowing a limited number of fans at Madison Square Garden on February 23 and Toppin is excited to finally play in front of a home crowd, he told Marc Berman of the New York Post. “We have the best fan base in the NBA,” he said. “It will be amazing to have fans. But safety is first. When that time comes for fans to be there we’ll love it.’