Tom Thibodeau

Atlantic Notes: Hetzel, Nets, Maxey, Thibodeau, Celtics

The Nets are hiring veteran assistant coach Steve Hetzel to be part of Jordi Fernandez‘s new staff in Brooklyn, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Hetzel was an assistant coach in Portland for the past three seasons under Chauncey Billups. Prior to his stint with the Blazers, he worked on Steve Clifford‘s staffs in both Charlotte (2014-18) and Orlando (2018-21).

Perhaps most notably, Hetzel was the head coach of the Canton Charge in the G League during the 2013/14 season. Fernandez was an assistant on his staff that year before taking over as the Charge’s head coach for the next two seasons after that.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • The Sixers have listed guard Tyrese Maxey as questionable to play in Game 2 on Monday due to an illness that forced him to miss this morning’s shootaround, tweets Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • In an anonymous player poll conducted by The Athletic, 47% of the respondents named Tom Thibodeau as the head coach they’d least want to play for. However, Thibodeau’s Knicks players were prepared to go to bat for him, as Fred Katz of The Athletic writes. “Nobody’s in our locker room and everybody that talks is on the outside of our locker room. They don’t know what goes on,” Donte DiVincenzo said. “Thibs is a great leader. He’s a great head coach and he’s done an amazing job this year not only dealing with injuries in and out of the lineup but also getting the best out of every single player on our team. I’m having a career year. Different guys on the team are having career years.”
  • The Celtics have made at least the Eastern Conference Finals in five of the last seven postseason but haven’t won a title during that time. Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston explores how last year’s additions of Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday give the team a new dimension and raise its ceiling entering the 2024 playoffs.
  • Porzingis passed a key test in Game 1 on Sunday vs. Miami, writes Brian Robb of, scoring 18 points and finishing as a +17 in his 34 minutes. Porzingis – who had only played in 10 playoff games, including none since 2021 – lacks the extensive postseason experience of his fellow Celtics starters, but he showed on Sunday that he’s up to the challenge with the stakes raised, says Robb.

Knicks Notes: Anunoby, Bogdanovic, Burks, Hart, Thibodeau

After returning to the Knicks‘ lineup Friday night, OG Anunoby said it was “just inflammation” in his right elbow that forced him to miss the previous nine games, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Post. Anunoby, who is operating under a minutes restriction, believed it was important to get back on the court before the postseason begins.

He was able to play three games after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on the elbow in February, but suffered a setback that kept him out of action again. He told reporters that he took a different approach to rehab this time than he did immediately after the operation.

“Maybe less shooting. Building up the shooting, not just going back to shooting like I normally shoot,” Anunoby said. “So just taking my time and it’s going to get better and better.” 

Anunoby played 29 minutes on Friday, scoring 12 points and shooting 5-of-8 from the field. He replaced Miles McBride in the starting lineup and guarded DeMar DeRozan for most of the night. Anunoby made an immediate impact after being acquired from Toronto in late December, and Friday’s loss dropped the Knicks to 15-3 with him on the court.

“I’m happy he’s back, happy he’s healthy,” Jalen Brunson said. “Obviously, we didn’t win so it clouds my judgment right now (on how Anunoby played), but just happy he’s healthy and out there.” 

There’s more on the Knicks:

  • Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks were expected to provide much-needed shooting help when they were acquired in a deadline deal with Detroit, but both players are in danger of being left out of the playoff rotation, Bondy states in a separate story. Bondy notes that Anunoby’s return pushes Burks to the 10th spot in the rotation, which is more players than coach Tom Thibodeau typically uses in the postseason. Bogdanovic and Burks have struggled with efficiency since coming to New York, and they’ve seen their playing time reduced recently.
  • Josh Hart was ejected in the first quarter Friday for kicking Javonte Green in the side of the head on a play that appeared to be accidental (video link), Bondy adds in another piece. Referee Scott Foster said “intent was not a criteria” in handing out the Flagrant 2.
  • Talking with the media in Chicago, where he coached for five years, Thibodeau pushed back against the long-standing criticism that he gives too many minutes to his starters, per Steve Popper of Newsday. “People tend not to look at — what are the star players playing? Because usually you’re matching their players with a primary defender,” Thibodeau said. “So when LeBron [James] is on the floor, that’s when that player is on the floor. So LeBron is playing 39, he’s 39. If DeMar is playing 40, then whoever is guarding him has to play 40. Otherwise, you’re reducing your chances of winning. And the bottom line is to win games.”

Knicks Notes: Thibodeau, DiVincenzo, Robinson, Anunoby

Tom Thibodeau‘s reputation as a no-nonsense, old-school coach isn’t entirely deserved, Donte DiVincenzo tells Sam Amick of The Athletic. DiVincenzo was aware that Thibodeau topped an anonymous player poll of the coaches they’d least like to play for, but that didn’t affect his decision to sign a four-year, $47MM deal with New York last summer.

“From the outside world, there’s always (a different view),” DiVincenzo said. “But in our house — in-house — we have a good dynamic and we enjoy it and everybody enjoys being around each other. To the outside world, you don’t really know. All you know is perception. All you know is the history from other teams (Thibodeau has coached) and his years with different organizations. But we’ve had plenty of rest days, plenty of off days.”

Thibodeau has a reputation for giving heavy minutes to his rotation players, especially his starters, and causing them to wear down throughout the season. But he also inspires intense loyalty in players who approach the game the same way that he does. DiVincenzo said working with Thibodeau hasn’t been much different from his other NBA stops.

“I played for (the Warriors’ Steve) Kerr and played for Coach Bud (former Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer). It’s not like you come here and all of a sudden you’re just running track every day (in practice),” DiVincenzo said. “I think what he does by far better than anybody I’ve been around is he’s the most prepared. So it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go for two hours on your feet and running. But when you’re in there, you’re gonna lock in and you’re gonna get the stuff done and we’re gonna get out of there.”

There’s more on the Knicks:

  • Thibodeau has one season left on his contract and he’s hoping to land a long-term extension this summer, league sources tell Amick. Thibodeau currently makes about $7MM per year, Amick’s sources say, and he’s in line for a major raise considering the huge deals recently landed by Monty Williams, Gregg Popovich, Erik Spoelstra, Doc Rivers and Kerr.
  • Mitchell Robinson talked about the frustration of having another season disrupted by injuries, per Stefan Bondy of The New York Post. Robinson, who’s hoping to return soon from ankle surgery, was off to the best start of his career when he felt discomfort in his left ankle during a December 8 game against Boston. He was cleared to keep playing following an X-ray, but was later diagnosed with a stress fracture. “I’m like, man, I’m trying to figure out ways to stop it from happening, the best ways that I can,” Robinson said. “And it’s like one thing after one thing. I felt like I was finally getting in shape to the top of my career right there and the next thing you know.”
  • When Robinson does return, he’ll be joining a much different version of the team, notes Fred Katz of The Athletic. The Knicks have shaken up their roster since early December, and Robinson is looking forward to playing alongside OG Anunoby. “He’s active. He’s not afraid to take a chance,” Robinson said. “He might miss one (steal) here or there, but that’s all right. He’ll get most of them.”

New York Notes: Anunoby, Randle, Hart, Thibodeau, Bridges

The Knicks will take a conservative approach regarding OG Anunoby’s sore elbow, but the irritation has shown improvement since Monday, SNY TV’s Ian Begley reports.

Anunoby underwent an MRI on his surgically repaired right elbow and the results showed no additional damage. It’s uncertain when he’ll return to action.

As for Julius Randle, Begley says there’s still an expectation that he’ll be back in action at some point this season, though he has yet to be cleared for contact. Randle, who suffered a dislocated shoulder in late January, has been participating in other on-court activities.

We have more on the New York teams:

  • Josh Hart played all 48 minutes and recorded a triple-double in Monday’s win over the Warriors, joining Hall of Famers Clyde Frazier and Jerry Lucas as the only players in franchise history to accomplish that feat, Joseph Staszewski of the New York Post notes. Hart also became the first Knicks performer to play a full game since Jared Jeffries in 2010. “I ain’t making any shots, so I’ve got to do something else,” said Hart, who had his third triple-double of the month.
  • Considering all the major injury issues he’s had to deal with this season, this might be the Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau’s best coaching job of his career, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post opines.
  • Nets forward Mikal Bridges played his 500th consecutive game in the team’s 104-91 loss to the Pelicans on Tuesday. He hasn’t missed a game during his pro career. However, his production has declined lately, including a 15-point outing against New Orleans. Asked if Bridges’ minutes should be reduced, interim coach Kevin Ollie told The New York Post’s Jared Schwartz, “We always sit down with our medical team. We think about what’s best for the organization, what’s best for the players. … We’re all talking about that. We’re gonna make the best decision for Mikal, and the best decision for our organization, if something ever arises like that.”

Tyronn Lue, Tom Thibodeau Named Coaches Of The Month

Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue and Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau were named Coaches of the Month for January, the NBA announced Thursday (Twitter link).

Lue, who was also the Western Conference’s Coach 0f the Month in December, led the Clippers to a 13-3 record in January. The Clippers have gone 28-8 since a 3-7 start to the season and, entering Thursday, sat at third in the Western standings, just 2.0 games out of first place.

The Clippers appear to be firing on all cylinders through the first half of the season. James Harden has fit in nicely after being traded to Los Angeles at the beginning of the season while Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were named All-Stars earlier Thursday. Ivica Zubac and Russell Westbrook are among others playing well in their roles.

Thibodeau, the Eastern Conference winner, helped propel the Knicks toward the top of the standings in January. The Knicks went 14-2 after the New Year, including separate winning streaks of five and eight games. After beginning the month with a 17-15 record, the Knicks are now 31-17 and in third in the conference.

Like the Clippers, the Knicks have two All-Stars and several players fitting nicely into their roles. OG Anunoby, traded to New York on Dec. 30, was a huge part of New York’s month. He’s averaging 15.6 points, 1.8 steals and 1.1 blocks per game since being moved.

The other nominees in the Western Conference were Oklahoma City’s Mark Daigneault, Utah’s Will Hardy, Memphis’s Taylor Jenkins and Phoenix’s Frank Vogel, according to NBA PR (Twitter link). Cleveland’s J.B. Bickerstaff, Indiana’s Rick Carlisle and Boston’s Joe Mazzulla were the other nominees in the Eastern Conference.

Knicks Notes: Hartenstein, Hart, Anunoby, Brown, Burks, Thibs

After missing the Knicks‘ past two games due to left Achilles tendinopathy, center Isaiah Hartenstein will return on Saturday afternoon vs. Miami and is reentering the starting lineup, tweets Ian Begley of Head coach Tom Thibodeau had previously said on Thursday that Hartenstein was doing “a lot better” (Twitter link).

Hartenstein became the Knicks’ starting center last month following Mitchell Robinson‘s ankle injury. The veteran big man has averaged 7.4 points, 11.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.4 blocks in his 17 starts (33.8 MPG). New York has gone 11-6 during that stretch.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Josh Hart, who griped about his role with the Knicks earlier this season, still doesn’t agree with the notion that he’s a power forward and isn’t necessarily thrilled by his career-low 12.1% usage rate. However, he has gotten on board with what the team has asked him to do and embraced his new role, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Post. “Yeah, it took me 40 games. It’s a process,” Hart said. “Obviously it’s not something I thought it was going to be like entering the year. But it’s where we’re at. Now it’s just you got to sacrifice and do some of that.”
  • In a subscriber-only story for The Post, Bondy takes a deep dive into how OG Anunoby‘s arrival and explains how his impact has gone beyond his defense. Within the same article, Bondy says Raptors guard Bruce Brown and Pistons guard Alec Burks are the two potential trade targets he has heard connected most frequently to the Knicks as of late.
  • Would it be in the Knicks’ best interest to stand pat at the trade deadline, given how well they’re playing recently? Steve Popper of Newsday considers that question, writing that if the team does make a move on the trade market, a player’s fit will be as important as his skill.
  • In yet another story for The New York Post, Bondy shines a light on the role that Thibodeau has played in the Knicks’ success this season, pointing out that several key players on the roster are playing the best basketball of their respective careers and arguing that wouldn’t happen “without the touch of a great — and tirelessly focused — coach.”

Atlantic Notes: Quickley, Raptors, Harris, Thibodeau

New Raptors starting point guard Immanuel Quickley is looking to an All-NBA superstar as a point of reference for his expanded role on Toronto, per Michael Grange of Quickley has been watching game tape on Warriors point guard Stephen Curry.

“To see someone 6-foot-3, 190 pounds winning an MVP, it makes you ask yourself: ‘Why can’t I be great? If you have the work ethic, why can’t you go out and accomplish great things?’” Quickley said. “It’s always great to see great players do well, especially players who have the same kind of body type as you, it’s just cool to see that.”

Curry, meanwhile, had high praise for Quickley.

“He’s got so much potential in this league and the change of the scenery will be fresh for him,” Curry said. “He’s got a nice responsibility as a starting point guard now.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • These revamped Raptors are struggling on defense without OG Anunoby or Precious Achiuwa, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. In Koreen’s view, one part of the problem is the team’s decision to frequently play Quickley alongside reserve point guard Dennis Schröder, in undersized backcourt lineups.
  • Against the Kings on Friday, Sixers power forward Tobias Harris reminded Philadelphia fans why the team to sign him to a five-year, $180MM contract in 2019, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. His 37-point night vs. Sacramento came on the heels of a 32-point performance on Wednesday against the Hawks, marking the first time in his NBA career he has scored 30+ points in two straight games. With Embiid ailing from a sore left knee, Harris has taken on a bigger role in his team’s scoring attack.
  • After claiming his 500th career victory as a head coach, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau reflected on the retirement of 24-year Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, per Stefan Bondy of The New York Post. “Growing up in New England, I appreciate what he brought, and what he did there was just incredible,” Connecticut native Thibodeau said. “That’s the mark of greatness to do it the way he did it for as long as he did. I grew up thinking the Patriots never win and then my nephews grew up thinking the Patriots win every year. So it’s completely different perspective. But I think a lot of coaches learn from him — coaching is leadership. He’s incredible. He’s at the top of my list.”

Knicks Notes: Anunoby, Flynn, Achiuwa, Thibodeau, Skapintsev

When OG Anunoby decided to leave Klutch Sports this past offseason, he had meetings with several agencies and told prospective representatives that he would like a larger offensive role, one that would be commensurate with an annual average salary of $40MM, reports Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

Anunoby is earning $18.6MM this season and has the ability to become an unrestricted free agent next offseason, at which point he’ll be in line for a substantial raise.

But the Knicks didn’t acquire the forward without a clear understanding of his contract situation, according to Fischer, who suggests that Anunoby may be more willing to sign a team-friendly deal with New York than he would have with another team. Sources tell Yahoo Sports that agents who met with the 26-year-old in the offseason got the impression he’d be willing to accept less than $40MM per year if he were to end up in New York.

As Fischer observes, it’s also worth noting that Anunoby ultimately ended up signing with CAA, an agency that works closely with the Knicks. One of Anunoby’s representatives is Sam Rose, the son of Knicks president Leon Rose.

Here’s more out of New York:

  • Posing 10 pressing questions for the Knicks in the wake of the Anunoby deal, Stefan Bondy of The New York Post explores the motivation for the move, considers whether Malachi Flynn or Miles McBride will become the backup point guard, and examines what to expect from Precious Achiuwa, among other topics.
  • It was apparent that the Knicks’ pre-trade roster had reached its ceiling, says Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post, arguing that the acquisition of Anunoby is exactly the sort of core shakeup the team needed. The deal also sets up the Knicks well for a follow-up trade, Vaccaro adds, given that the front office still has Evan Fournier‘s expiring contracts and all of its first-round picks to work with.
  • The newly acquired Knicks players won’t be active tonight in Indiana, but should be available for Monday’s game vs. Minnesota, assuming all goes well with their physicals, tweets Fred Katz of The Athletic.
  • Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau seems likely to hear from the NBA after criticizing the officiating following Friday’s loss to Orlando, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post. Thibodeau said that he was “sick and tired” of Jalen Brunson getting “hammered” and not earning foul calls. “Like, I watch. I send it in. I see it all. And they’re fouls. It’s plain and simple, they’re fouls and there’s no other way to say it, except they’re fouls. They’re fouls,” Thibodeau said. “No one drives the ball more to the rim than this guy does. And if you rake across his arm, you rake across his arm. And if you hit him in the head, you hit him in the head. Those are fouls. Those are fouls. [I’m] sick and tired of it.”
  • In a story for The Athletic, Mike Vorkunov takes a closer look at the journey that new Knicks two-way player Dmytro Skapintsev has taken from Ukraine to the G League to the NBA club.

Atlantic Notes: Hart, Reed, Dick, Barrett, Thomas, Smith

Knicks wing Josh Hart doesn’t agree with coach Tom Thibodeau‘s assessment of his role, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Post.

Hart, who signed a four-year, $81MM extension during the summer, believes he has a reduced role in the offense and doesn’t have the ball in his hands as often as he did last season. “I’m a rhythm player. So sometimes if I don’t touch the ball for four or five minutes running up and down the floor, just catch-and-shoot, I might as well be playing with a football,” Hart said.

However, his coach has an opposite view. “There really hasn’t been a change,” Thibodeau said. “To be honest, his usage is up. He’s handling the ball more. The way he’s being used is not any different than last year.”

Following the Knicks’ game against Charlotte on Tuesday, Hart made a point of telling the media he’s not unhappy, Fred Katz of The Athletic tweets. “Just so you know, I’m not a disgruntled player. Make sure y’all tweet that (stuff). Josh Hart said he’s not disgruntled.”

Katz detailed Hart’s usage in an in-depth piece on Tuesday.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Paul Reed was surprised that his comments about the LakersAnthony Davis during the morning shootaround on Monday went viral, as Gina Mizell of the Philadelphia Inquirer details. The Sixers big man called Davis “a big flopper” and added, “he’s going to be flailing.” Reed soon found out his comments caused controversy. “I started checking Twitter and Instagram,” he said, “and I’m like, ‘Damn, people are really mad at me in the Lakers community.’” Reed and Davis wound up sharing the court for only three minutes in Philly’s blowout win.
  • Raptors first-round pick Gradey Dick shot 6-for-33 over his first two games with the Raptors 905, Toronto’s G League team. Dick, who has appeared in 15 NBA games, told Blake Murphy of Sportsnet he’s not worried about his shot. “My confidence hasn’t dwindled at all,” Dick said. “I mean, I’ll go take the next 10 shots, I don’t really care. Because I know me as a shooter, and it’s not any cockiness, but at the same time I think it’s positive cockiness. I’ve put in enough work off the court and I’m still doing it now where I have that confidence and trust.”
  • Knicks wing RJ Barrett says he’s still trying to get back in form after a bout with migraines, Bondy writes. Barrett has shot 33% of the field in the last five games after dealing with the severe headaches. “I didn’t pick up where I left off,” Barrett said. “That’s OK. Honestly, this was going to happen at some point during the season whether I got sick or not. So, I’m just doing what I do all the time, working my way out of it. Not worried.”
  • Cam Thomas and Dennis Smith Jr. are getting close to returning, Nets coach Jacque Vaughn told Dan Martin of the New York Post. A sprained left ankle has sidelined Thomas since Nov. 8, while Smith has missed the last five games with a lower back sprain. They both participated in simulated-game activity after the team’s shootaround on Tuesday. “They’re both trending in the direction of hopefully playing with us soon,’’ Vaughn said. “The fact that they both participated is a good sign.”

Atlantic Notes: Tatum, Randle, Maxey, Oubre

All-NBA forward Jayson Tatum was initially frustrated at being selected by the Celtics in the 2017 draft, he admitted in a recent interview on NBC Sports Boston (Twitter video link).

“First of all, I didn’t even want to come because I didn’t think I was going to play,” Tatum said (hat tip to Jared Weiss of The Athletic for the transcription). “They had Gordon (Hayward), Jaylen Brown, Isaiah Thomas, and (Marcus) Smart, and I didn’t think I was good enough to be on that team. So, it didn’t even cross my mind how to close a game or how to finish. I was just more concerned about getting in the game and starting.”

It’s safe to say that he’s enjoying his time in Boston now. Still just 25, Tatum is already a five-time All-Star and three-time All-NBA selection, and has helped lead the Celtics to the playoffs across all of his six pro seasons, including the 2022 NBA Finals. At 5-0, the new-look Celtics are already the only remaining undefeated team in the league and Tatum just became the youngest player in franchise history to reach 10,000 career points.

Tatum is currently in the midst of a five-year, maximum-salary contract extension that will see him remain under team control through 2024/25. He’s eligible to sign a new super-max extension next summer.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • It sounds like Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau is out of excuses for All-Star power forward Julius Randle‘s current slump, per Stefan Bondy of The New York Post. Bondy noted that Thibodeau’s latest postgame remarks, following a Friday loss to the Bucks, were a bit harsher than usual. “You can’t predetermine,” Thibodeau said. “You can’t say, ‘Well, I haven’t had a shot, so now I’m gonna take a shot.’ The game tells you what to do… If you’re open, you shoot. If there’s three guys around, you hit the open man. It’s really simple. It’s not hard.” Through six games, the 6’8″ big man is averaging just 13.7 PPG on .271/.225/.618 shooting for the 2-4 Knicks.
  • Although Tyrese Maxey is off to a stellar start, Sixers head coach Nick Nurse and reigning MVP Joel Embiid are hoping the rising guard will show more aggression in his offense, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “He’s got to not get into those modes where he’s not being more aggressive,” Nurse said. “I’m not criticizing him. I’m just trying to keep imploring that needs to be more aggressive.” Embiid seems to feel similarly: “The key for him is just to be aggressive… and then let the game come to him. I think as the game went along, he let the game come to him, and made the right plays. He passed up a couple of shots that I think he should have taken.”
  • New Sixers wing Kelly Oubre is also off to a red-hot start for Philadelphia, Pompey adds in a separate piece. Pompey refers to the Sixers’ signing of Oubre to a veteran’s minimum deal as perhaps the club’s best free agent deal in years. “I know that I’m very hungry to prove myself in this league,” Oubre said. “Obviously, you know this summer was very stressful to me for me. So I had a lot of pent up energy for this season already built up.” Across five contests, he’s averaging 21 PPG on .536/.448/.857 shooting, along with 4.0 RPG.