Taj Gibson

Knicks Notes: Randle, Payton, Gibson, Barrett

The Knicks need a quick turnaround from Julius Randle to salvage their series with the Hawks, but coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t worried about his star forward, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Randle averaged 24.1 points per game during the regular season, but has been limited to 15, 15, and 14 points as Atlanta has taken a 2-1 series lead.

“Just be Julius. I don’t want him overthinking it,’’ Thibodeau said. “Let the game come to you. Sometimes you’re going to get your shots, sometimes you got to make the play. That’s what he’s done extremely well all year long. He’s our engine, he’s a fighter, he’s tough, he’s smart. He’ll figure it out.’’

The Hawks have frustrated Randle with changing coverages, a variety of defenders, and frequent double and triple teams. He hasn’t been able to get comfortable in the point forward role he has played all season, and the Knicks don’t have a dependable guard to run their offense.

“It’s been a team effort,’’ said Hawks guard Kevin Huerter. “He’s the head of the snake. When the team is playing at its best, he’s playing at its best. He’s making shots and creating for everyone else. We wanted to make it as tough as we could on him. We’ve thrown different guys at him. Defensively, it’s feel like every possession someone else gets a crack at him. We’re just trying to show help when we can and force him into tough shots.’’

There’s more on the Knicks:

  • Derrick Rose is expected to remain the starting point guard for Game 4, Berman states in a separate story. Rose scored 30 points in 38 minutes Friday as former starter Elfrid Payton wasn’t used at all. Thibodeau admits it was difficult to break the news of the demotion to Payton. “You always have to do what you feel is best for your team,’’ he said. “Sometimes it’s matchups. Elfrid’s a critical part of the team. He’s had a very good year for us. It’s just also, like, what we’re looking at, and what we think gives us our best chance right now.”
  • Thibodeau made another lineup change in Game 3, Berman adds, starting Taj Gibson at center in place of Nerlens Noel, who has been dealing with an ankle that he “tweaked” in the series opener. Noel excelled in the reserve role, with 12 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes. “It doesn’t matter, whatever Thibs wants me to do — come off the bench, play five minutes,” Gibson said. “Doesn’t matter. We got to find a way to come out with a ‘W.’”
  • The Knicks need more production from RJ Barrett, points out Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Barrett is shooting 13 of 38 in the first three games and is regularly missing open jumpers. “I see it,” he said. “I’m open. I just got to make it.”

Knicks Notes: Rose, Gibson, Payton, Second-Round Tickets

Derrick Rose and Tom Thibodeau may finally get to enjoy the playoff success that they should have had together in Chicago, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. Rose’s career was upended by injuries after his MVP season in 2010/11, and the Bulls fired Thibodeau four years later. Now they’re trying to give the Knicks their first postseason series win since 2013.

New York was able to acquire Rose for a bargain price in February, sending little-used Dennis Smith Jr. and a second-round pick to the Pistons in return. There were concerns that Rose might get in the way of the team’s rebuilding process, but he has led them to the playoffs as an explosive scorer and a valuable veteran presence. He helped turn around Wednesday’s Game 2 win over the Hawks, coming off the bench to score 26 points in 39 minutes.

“One thing about Derrick I’ve noticed, when he’s in a familiar situation, in a situation that he’s comfortable in, he understands it’s family, he understands that it’s a good environment, a winning environment, he’s going to flourish,” said Taj Gibson, who was also with Rose and Thibodeau in Chicago. “And right now he’s around familiar faces he’s been in battle with for a long time.”

There’s more from New York:

  • Gibson, who wasn’t on an NBA roster when the season began, could be the Knicks’ starting center for tonight’s Game 3, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. The team considered bringing Gibson to training camp, but opted to go with Omari Spellman instead. Spellman earned a roster spot, but when he was sidelined by a sore knee in early January, the Knicks waived him and added Gibson. The veteran big man played an important role in Game 2 while Nerlens Noel was limited by a sprained ankle, and he could be given a starting role if Noel isn’t ready tonight.
  • Elfrid Payton‘s playoff future appears to be in doubt after playing just five minutes Wednesday, notes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Payton remained in his starting role, but he never re-entered the game after being pulled for Rose midway through the first quarter.
  • The Knicks announced this morning that tickets for a possible second-round playoff series will only be sold to vaccinated fans, Berman adds in a separate story. The team wants to fill Madison Square Garden to its capacity of 19,040, which means no socially distanced seating will be offered.

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Rose, Simmons, Kyrie, Tatum

The Knicks evened their first-round series at one game apiece with a win over Atlanta on Wednesday night. And, as Ian Begley of SNY.tv writes, two midseason acquisitions whom head coach Tom Thibodeau pushed to add played key roles in that victory. Derrick Rose scored a team-high 26 points in 39 minutes off the bench, while Taj Gibson was a game-best plus-23 in his 30 minutes.

Rose, who was acquired via trade, and Gibson, a free agent signing, both played for Thibodeau in Chicago and Minnesota before reuniting with him in New York. As Begley observes, they’re the veterans Thibodeau trusts the most, and the Knicks’ head coach didn’t sound surprised that giving them big minutes helped turn the tide in Game 2.

“I just wanted to change it up,” Thibodeau said of putting Rose and Gibson in the Knicks’ lineup to start the third quarter. “I thought we had to do something different and that’s why you have a bench. Those guys came in and played great.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Although Elfrid Payton technically started Wednesday’s game, it’s clear that Rose will be the point guard the Knicks rely on in this series, writes Paul Schwartz of The New York Post. Rose said he felt good after logging 39 minutes, while Payton was a minus-7 in his five minutes and didn’t play after the first quarter.
  • After receiving some criticism in Philadelphia for putting up just six points (to go along with 15 rebounds and 15 assists) in the Sixers‘ Game 1 win, Ben Simmons scored 22 points on Wednesday and addressed that negative feedback after the game. “I’m not trying to stick to anybody in Philly,” Simmons said, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN. “I thought it was pretty hard to get 15 assists and 15 rebounds in the NBA in the playoffs. I thought that was pretty impressive. And we won. What y’all want? You want to win? For me, I’m here to win and I’m doing what I need to do to help my team win, whatever it is. I’m not trying to prove anybody wrong or anything like that. I’m trying to do my job to win.”
  • As the Celtics/Nets series shifts from Brooklyn to Boston, former Celtic Kyrie Irving said he expects to hear plenty of jeers from the crowd, but hopes that C’s fans “keep it strictly basketball,” per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “(Hopefully) there’s no belligerence or racism going on — subtle racism — people yelling s–t from the crowd, but even if it is, it’s part of the nature of the game and we’re just going to focus on what we can control,” Irving said.
  • During an appearance on Zolak & Bertrand on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston (audio link), Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said he thinks there’s a good chance Jayson Tatum will play in Game 3 after suffering an eye injury on Tuesday. “The last I heard was that he was doing better and that Friday looks probable,” Stevens said.

New York Notes: Gibson, Johnson, Cordinier, Claxton

Veteran big man Taj Gibson appreciates the impact that Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau has had on his lengthy NBA career, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. Gibson has been coached by Thibodeau during portions of three of his four NBA stops, with the Bulls, Timberwolves and Knicks.

“Well, my whole career with him has been great,” the 12-year Knicks veteran said of Thibodeau. “He’s just been a great coach in how to be ready in all facets — to be a sixth man, starting, not playing, I’m just always ready.”

There’s more out of the City That Never Sleeps:

  • Nets reserve power forward Alize Johnson had a huge game against his old team, the Pacers, grabbing 20 points and 21 rebounds off the bench (the first time a backup had notched such numbers in three years). Armed with a fresh multiyear deal from his new franchise, Johnson was a man on a mission, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post“I didn’t play much when I was here (in Indiana),” Johnson noted. “I was ready to go out there and prove to everybody that I belong in the NBA and want to stay here for a long time.”
  • There are whispers that newly-minted First Team All-EuroCup guard Isaia Cordinier may join the Nets next season, tweets international reporter Chema de Lucas (h/t Net Income of Nets Daily). The Nets acquired Cordinier’s draft rights in a 2018 trade.
  • Athletic Nets center Nicolas Claxton has returned to the gym to rehabilitate, and head coach Steve Nash anticipates he could return for Brooklyn in a week, tweets Malika Andrews of ESPN. With former starting center LaMarcus Aldridge now retired, Claxton should be a major part of Brooklyn’s frontcourt rotation in the postseason.

New York Notes: Knicks, Nets, Rose, Claxton/Perry

The outstanding recent play of Knicks veteran big men Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson has appeared to validate the team’s decision not to make a big offer to center Andre Drummond on the buyout market, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. Berman notes that head coach Tom Thibodeau ultimately made the call to not add Drummond.

“Those guys cover so much for us on the defensive end, blocking shots, being in the right position,” All-Star forward Julius Randle raved of the Knicks’ two veteran bigs. “They anchor our defense, honestly. They make my job easier, our guards’ job easier. It’s just amazing to have those two guys behind you. If you make mistakes, they’re going to cover for you.’’

Noel and Gibson have had to step up in the absence of Knicks center Mitchell Robinson, anticipated to miss the rest of the year with a broken foot.

There’s more out of the Big Apple:

  • Thanks to sharpshooting Nets duo Landry Shamet and Joe Harris connecting on 43% of their triples combined since the league’s All-Star break, Brooklyn might have its own poor man’s version of a “Splash Brothers” shooting tandem, writes Matthew Brooks of NetsDaily.
  • 32-year-old veteran Knicks reserve guard Derrick Rose is relishing his second tour of duty in New York, per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News“It’s great being on a young team where everybody is locked in, everybody loves playing with one another and everyone is on the same page — which is to win games,” Rose said. “So it’s perfect.”
  • Nets center Nicolas Claxton and power forward Reggie Perry have entered the NBA’s coronavirus health and safety protocols, tweets Malika Andrews of ESPN.

Knicks Notes: Gibson, Ntilikina, McCollum, Live Fans

Veteran big man Taj Gibson sees a resilient quality in this year’s Knicks, which he credits to the coaching change, writes Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Gibson, who also played for Tom Thibideau in Chicago and Minnesota, believes the coach has brought a toughness to the organization that wasn’t there before.

New York nearly let a 21-point lead slip away Sunday night, but managed to hold on for a narrow win over the Timberwolves. At 15-16, the Knicks are seventh in the East and solidly in the playoff race with the All-Star break approaching.

“Our coaching staff has been drilling guys from the beginning of the summer up to this point,” Gibson said. “The preparation beginning at shootarounds has been outstanding. It’s always tough to play 48-minute games, but the way we all huddle around each other, everybody top to bottom, hangs out, works out late with each other. Everybody understands the stakes. And guys want to win.”

There’s more from New York:

  • Frank Ntilikina is out of contact tracing, but the team isn’t planning to send him to the G League for playing time, Begley adds in the same piece. “I think we’ll take a look at it as we go,” Thibodeau said. “I like Frank being here. He’s done an excellent job; he’s got a great attitude, great approach. And even though he’s not playing, he’s adding a lot to our team right now.”
  • The Knicks are “monitoring” Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum, who is rehabbing a broken foot, a source tells Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. However, Jonathan Warner of NBC Sports Northwest says Portland has no plans to move McCollum and speculates it would take an offer of multiple first-round picks plus a core player to get the Blazers’ attention.
  • Sunday marked the last game of the season with no fans in Madison Square Garden, notes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Under new regulations from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, 2,000 spectators will be permitted at games starting Tuesday. “Even with the fake noises, it kind of sounds like the way it sounds when I watch it on TV,’’ Immanuel Quickley said. “It’s definitely a buzz even without fans. So I’m sure with fans, it’s going to be even more lively. So I’m excited to get the fans back in the building.’’

Knicks Notes: D. Rose, Gibson, Thibodeau, L. Rose

Wherever Tom Thibodeau goes, Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose eventually show up, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Thibodeau coached both of them when they were young players in Chicago, then brought them in to be veteran leaders in Minnesota. Now they’re together again after the Knicks signed Gibson last month and completed a trade for Rose today.

“I’ve known (Rose) my whole career — we came in together,’’ Gibson said. “He’s a competitor. He’s a great guy. … He’s one of those guys who’ve been around the system — same as myself. We know what Thibs basically wants. As long as you give 100 percent effort every day, 110% on defense. At same time just coming in and being vocal and understanding what you need to do.’’

Gibson has only gotten into four games since signing with New York, but his role could expand if the team sees more need to rest Nerlens Noel, who has been dealing with knee issues. Noel sat out a second straight game Sunday, allowing Gibson to play 16 minutes.

“I thought he played really well and when Nerlens is back, he’ll be ready in any role we ask him to play,’’ Thibodeau said. “That’s always been with him. Even early on in his career, start him, bring him off the bench. Whatever the team needed he provided. He’s a great teammate, great leader.’’

There’s more on the Knicks:

  • The trade shows how much influence Thibodeau has with team president Leon Rose, Berman adds in a separate story. In addition to his fondness for Derrick Rose, who he still believes can play at an MVP level on some nights, Thibodeau doesn’t place much value on second-round picks, preferring to use them as trade fodder. Berman also examines how the trade will affect the rest of the roster and views Austin Rivers as most likely to lose playing time.
  • The Knicks may be most effective using Rose as a shooting guard, rather than breaking up their point guard combination of Elfrid Payton and Immanuel Quickley, suggests John Hollinger of The Athletic. He notes that Detroit frequently played Rose at the two-guard spot, where he would be taking minutes away from Rivers and Reggie Bullock.
  • The deal offers some insight into how Leon Rose plans to run the organization, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic, who points out that the Knicks’ president was patient in free agency and aggressive on the trade market. Rose and Thibodeau appear to be focused on securing a playoff spot this season, rather than developing young talent.

Knicks Rumors: Rose, Gibson, Ball, Robinson

Following up on a Shams Charania report from Tuesday, Marc Berman of The New York Post confirms that the Knicks have interest in Derrick Rose, though he hears from sources that the team hasn’t yet talked to the Pistons about a possible trade.

According to Berman, sources close to Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau believe he would like to reunite with Rose, who played for him in Chicago and Minnesota. Berman notes that Thibodeau “pushed hard” for New York to re-sign Taj Gibson, who was also a member of the Bulls and Timberwolves under Thibs.

If the Knicks do give up any sort of asset for Rose, that would be a strong indication the team believes it would be able to re-sign him when he becomes a free agent during the 2021 offseason, says Ian Begley of SNY.tv. For now, it remains to be seen whether the Pistons will move Rose — or whether New York will make the best offer.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • While a Tuesday report indicated that the Pelicans are open to discussing a Lonzo Ball trade, it’s unclear whether or not the Knicks would have any interest. According to Ian Begley, some people within the organization supported the idea of trading for Ball entering the 2020 offseason. However, a strong early showing from Immanuel Quickley – combined with Ball’s up-and-down play – may have changed that equation. One team monitoring the Ball situation told Begley that the Pelicans still value the former No. 2 overall pick and won’t trade him if they don’t get a strong return.
  • Noting that Mitchell Robinson deleted a Tuesday tweet that read, “One day they’ll let me play,” Marc Berman wonders if the young center is seeking a larger offensive role. As Berman observes, Robinson is logging 29.6 minutes per game this season, well above his previous career high, so the tweet probably wasn’t about his playing time.
  • With All-Star voting set to open on Thursday, Julius Randle figures to receive consideration for a spot on the Eastern Conference squad. The veteran big man is averaging 22.5 PPG, 11.3 RPG, and 6.0 APG so far in 2020/21 — those marks would all be career bests.

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Walker, Irving, Toppin

After having three straight games postponed due to coronavirus issues, the Celtics will likely be able to return to the court Friday night, according to Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press. All-Star forward Jayson Tatum will remain sidelined after testing positive last week, but four other players are expected to receive clearance in time for the game against Orlando.

“I don’t think there’s an easy answer here,” coach Brad Stevens said after today’s shootaround, which marked the first time his players have been on the court together since Sunday. “This is a difficult time around the country. This pandemic is as rampant as it’s ever been and obviously we’re feeling some of that despite the great precautions and great steps we’re taking not to.”

The NBA is dealing with its worst stretch of COVID-19 issues since the season began. Nine games have been postponed so far, with eight of those coming this week. The league is considering expanded testing that would provide same-day results on game days.

“We’re like everyone else,” Stevens said. “We appreciate the opportunity to gather. We appreciate the opportunity to be together. We appreciate the opportunity to play the game we love and when it’s taken away for a week or four months that’s hard. And the rest of the world’s dealing with that in every which way, so for us to complain about it … would be insensitive to everything else that’s going on in the world.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Celtics guard Kemba Walker is getting closer to making his season debut, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Stevens said Walker, who has been sidelined by soreness in his left knee, went “full” in today’s session, which was focused on drills.
  • Just as coach Steve Nash did Wednesday, Nets general manager Sean Marks refused to get into specifics about Kyrie Irving‘s absence during a session with reporters today, tweets Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Irving is away from the team for personal reasons and there’s no set date for his return. “I don’t want to speculate and say why he’s out,” Marks said. “I’ve had conversations with him. I’ll continue to have conversations. … You also hope there is a more than adequate excuse as to why he needs personal time. He will address that without a doubt.”
  • Knicks rookie Obi Toppin returned Wednesday after missing three weeks with a strained left calf, but he only played 57 seconds, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. “I’m super excited to be back,” Toppin said before the game. “I’m a little rusty. But I’ll be ready when Coach calls my name.”
  • Knicks free agent addition Taj Gibson received a rest-of-season veteran’s minimum contract, Berman adds in the same story.

New York Notes: Durant, Irving, Toppin, Gibson

Star forward Kevin Durant has yet to play both halves of a back-to-back set this season, as the Nets have made an effort to ease him back into the regular season schedule following his year-long absence due to an Achilles tear.

However, after leading the team to a comeback victory over Denver on Tuesday night, Durant is prepared to play the Knicks in New York tonight, as Brian Lewis of The New York Post details.

“I plan on it,” he said.

As of Tuesday night, head coach Steve Nash wasn’t ready to fully commit to having Durant available on Wednesday, cautioning that the Nets have to “judge these things day-to-day and moment-to-moment.” However, the team listed the two-time Finals MVP as available on its latest injury report today.

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York teams ahead of their game tonight:

  • There’s “real concern” around the league from people who know Kyrie Irving about his ongoing absence, says Joe Vardon of The Athletic. The Nets guard, who was spotted on a Zoom call for a Manhattan District Attorney candidate on Tuesday evening, will face a quarantine period when he returns, assuming the NBA finds he violated COVID-19 protocols by attending a large gathering to celebrate a family member’s birthday. Having previously reported that Irving isn’t expected back this week, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (video link) suggests the star guard may not be active next week either.
  • The Knicks have unexpectedly upgraded Obi Toppin (calf) to probable for Wednesday’s game (Twitter link). The rookie forward said he was just cleared for contact today and hasn’t yet practiced in full, tweets Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. It’s unclear whether or not he’ll actually see much – or any – action tonight, says Marc Berman of The New York Post (Twitter link).
  • Taj Gibson will be available for the Knicks on Wednesday night, as Berman writes for The New York Post. The recently-signed big man is reportedly in shape, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll play an immediate role.