Tom Thibodeau

Knicks Notes: Thibodeau, Beal, Robinson, COVID-19

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau has only nice things to say about the Timberwolves as he prepares to face them Sunday night for the first time since being fired two years ago, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Thibodeau helped Minnesota break a 14-season playoff drought in 2018, but was let go the following year. The Wolves are 43-93 since then, including a league-worst 7-23 this season.

“There’s a lot of good people there,’’ Thibodeau said. “I enjoyed my time there. It was a good experience. I was proud of what we were able to accomplish, but it was time to move on. Unfortunately there are a lot of former teams for me.’’

Thibodeau, who also had a front office role, spent just two and a half seasons with Minnesota, being let go midway through the 2018/19 season in favor of Ryan Saunders. He believed the team was heading in the right direction and could have accomplished more if he had stayed.

“There were things obviously we wanted to do better,” Thibodeau said. “That second year, we were very good. The third year I thought we had a really good chance as well even after the trade for Jimmy (Butler). That team was playing well.’’

There’s more from New York:

  • A report this week suggests that Knicks executive William “World Wide Wes” Wesley is working through backchannels to try to convince Wizards guard Bradley Beal to seek a trade to New York, relays Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. ESPN radio host Michael Kay said the tip comes from a “very good source” who told him that Wesley is “nudging” some of Beal’s representatives toward the arrangement.
  • Mitchell Robinson had no idea his hand was fractured when he suffered the injury in a February 12 game, according to Anthony Rieber of The New York Daily News. Robinson thought it was temporary numbness that he could shake off, but the diagnosis turned out to be far more serious. He had surgery this week and will be re-evaluated after the All-Star break. “So far, I feel great,” he said. “Basically, what I’ve been doing now is doing the bike, a little running here and there. I’ve been watching the team practice and trying to stay updated just in case they change something or something’s added. Other than just focusing in on that, just staying in shape.”
  • The Knicks played 30 games this season before having one canceled due to COVID-19 and that was because of issues involving the Spurs, notes Peter Botte of The New York Post. Frank Ntilikina is the only player to miss time because of contact tracing, and no one on the roster has tested positive for the virus.

Knicks Notes: Randle, Quickley, Rose, Noel

With the addition of Derrick Rose to the Knicks‘ roster, nominal point forward Julius Randle (averaging a career-best 5.8 APG) will have to make changes to his game, writes Peter Botte of the New York Post.

“He’s gonna be extremely helpful,” Randle said of the Rose addition. “It gives us not just a veteran presence but a guy who can go out there and create plays, just a steadiness about him, just a confidence about him.”

Botte notes that thus far Randle and Rose’s minutes have been relatively staggered.

There’s more out of New York:

  • Knicks rookie Immanuel Quickley, not even the first Knicks first-round pick in the 2020 NBA draft, has been impressing around the league thus far in his first season, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. Though fans fretted that the arrival of a proven veteran scorer like Rose could cut into Quickley’s minutes, the rookie point guard has been playing alongside the former MVP in reserve lineups. “I’m learning a lot of stuff [from him],’’ Quickley said. “He’s a dog, an alpha dog, he’s a leader. It’s great to have somebody like that in my corner.’’
  • Rose is already proving a welcome addition to the Knicks, according to Peter Botte of the New York Post“He’s a great student of the game,” coach Tom Thibodeau raved about Rose, who has played for Thibodeau in all three of his head coaching stops thus far. “I think that is what has allowed him to adapt, grow and change.” Rose is averaging 14.7 PPG and 4.0 APG with New York, while posting an impressive shooting line of .548/.529/.778.
  • The injury that will keep starting center Mitchell Robinson sidelined for at least six weeks is creating a huge opportunity for backup big man Nerlens Noel, as Marc Berman of the New York Post details. “Mitchell is a big piece on this team,” Noel said. “Everything he brings to the table. I hope he has a speedy recovery. Until then, I’ll definitely man the defense, man the paint. Just make sure I’m playing at a high level for this team.”

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 Notes: Thibodeau, Payton, Toppin, COVID-19

Tom Thibodeau deserves Coach of the Year consideration for the way he has transformed the Knicks, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. This afternoon’s win over Portland puts the team at 11-13, good for sixth place in the East a third of the way through the season. Bondy notes that every starter on this year’s team was also on last year’s squad, which began the season 4-18.

Thibodeau has instilled a defense-first mentality and has given more minutes to players who excel in that area. As a result, the Knicks are holding opponents to the lowest field-goal percentage in the league at 43.5%. They also allow the second-fewest points and have a defensive rating in the top seven.

“There’s not one particular thing when you look at the analytics — which everybody does — that there wasn’t one thing that really stood out other than the fact that teams do not shoot the ball well against them, which is ultimately the best metric to have,” said Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts. “What I see is a team that plays hard, they play physical, they’re active, they’re aggressive. They go after loose balls. They’re a hard-nosed defensive team.”

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:
  • One of Thibodeau’s most controversial decisions has been to stick with Elfrid Payton as his starting point guard ahead of high-scoring rookie Immanuel Quickley, notes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Quickley scored 31 points against the Blazers last month, but he remained on the bench for the entire first quarter today as Thibodeau relied on Payton to match up with Damian Lillard. “The big thing is the defense,’’ Thibodeau said of Payton’s contributions. “That’s the biggest tone-setter for us. The defensive component. That’s his strength and helps his team when he starts on the ball. And to keep us organized offensively and be opportunities with scoring opportunities.”
  • First-round pick Obi Toppin broke into a huge smile when asked about participating in a dunk contest if the league holds one along with its All-Star game, Berman adds in the same story. Toppin’s playing time has been limited in his first NBA season, but he was a prolific dunker in college. “The dunk contest, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see,’’ Toppin said. “I don’t want to just give you all answers, but hopefully I might be able to be there. Maybe not. So we’re just going to have to wait and see.’’
  • While COVID-19 has caused havoc for many NBA teams, the Knicks haven’t had any players miss a game due to the virus, according to Steve Popper of Newsday.

Atlantic Notes: DSJ, Knicks, Sixers, J. Green

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau believes the G League will be a great opportunity for Dennis Smith Jr. this season, according to Steve Popper of Newsday.

Smith reportedly asked to play in the G League due to receiving a lack of minutes, a wish that’s expected to be granted. The Knicks’ minor league affiliate team in Westchester is among 18 clubs attending the G League bubble this season, which is set to tip off on Feb. 10.

“I think the G League is a very valuable tool,” Thibodeau said. “I think you see it being used more and more by virtually every team in the league. It’s an opportunity, you can get obviously a lot out of practice, but I think playing time is important, also. So when we have those opportunities, we do want to utilize it. I think it will be great for him.”

Smith has only appeared in three games this season, logging a total of 28 minutes. The former No. 9 pick played 34 games with the team last season, averaging 5.5 points, 2.9 assists and 15.8 minutes per contest on 34% shooting.

Here are some other notes from the Atlantic Division:

  • Thibodeau has a decision to make on the team’s starting point guard going forward, Popper examines in a different story for Newsday. New York must choose between veteran Elfrid Payton and rookie Immanuel Quickley, with Payton starting in the club’s first 20 games this season. Quickley has shown flashes of potential, however, averaging 11.6 points in 18.5 minutes per game off the bench. His current shooting marks sit at 39.5% from the floor and 38% from downtown.
  • Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer examines how many All-Stars the Sixers should have this season. Joel Embiid, who’s currently enjoying a career-best season to date, is widely expected to be named to his fourth All-Star Game, but Pompey ponders whether Ben Simmons or Tobias Harris could make cases of their own.
  • Brian Lewis of the New York Post examines the strong production Jeff Green has offered for the Nets. Green, a 13-year NBA veteran, has provided frontcourt depth as a starter and off the bench this season. The 34-year-old is averaging 8.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 25.2 minutes per game, shooting 55% from the field and 44% from three-point range. “He’s been outstanding,” head coach Steve Nash said as part of a larger quote. “He’s been great on the court, his versatility, his experience and his skill has been really important to us. [But] his maturity, his personality, his leadership, he’s really added a ton to our team in that respect.”

Knicks Notes: Robinson, Thibodeau, Team Value, Noel

Knicks center Mitchell Robinson dismissed concerns about a tweet he sent out and then deleted Tuesday, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic (Twitter link). The message read, “One day they’ll let me play,” which led to speculation that Robinson is unhappy about his role on the team. However, he insisted today that it had nothing to do with basketball.

“It was really kind of a personal thing,” Robinson said. “At the same time I don’t really want talk about that. It’s something that’s going on in my life.”

Coach Tom Thibodeau seemed unconcerned about the message when reporters asked him about it, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. He said he hasn’t talked to Robinson about the tweet and isn’t interested in addressing it.

“I don’t know what you guys are talking about (with the tweet). I guess you have to ask him,” Thibodeau said. “But I talk to Mitch every day. He gets here early, stays late. Work in practice. I have a number of meetings with him. So I’m talking to him a lot about what he has to do to help our team win.”

There’s more from New York:

  • Austin Riverscomments this week about players being fatigued are a familiar issue on Thibodeau-coached teams, notes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Thibodeau is known for having a short rotation, but he rejected the idea that it’s a problem. “The schedule is the schedule,’’ he said. “It’s balanced. Sometimes it’s in your favor. … You could probably find an excuse for every game. That’s what you have to guard against. You have to have the mental toughness to get through anything you’re facing.’’
  • Although the Knicks have been mostly bad for the past 20 years, they continue to be the NBA’s most valuable franchise, according to Brendan Coffey of Sportico. The team has an estimated worth of $5.42 billion in Sportico’s latest valuations, well ahead of the Warriors and Lakers, who have been much more successful on the court. “You’ve got market, brand and legacy,” explained Sean Clemens, sport banking principal at Park Lane, a San Francisco bank. “The Knicks, along with the Lakers, are always viewed as the iconic brand no matter what happens on a sports-competitive level year over year, decade over decade.”
  • Knicks center Nerlens Noel has signed with agent Chris Gaston in advance of free agency this offseason, Bondy tweets. Noel was previously represented by Rich Paul of Klutch Sports.

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 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: Raptors’ Start, Johnson, Thibodeau, Nets

The Raptors are struggling to cope with a slow start, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Fred VanVleet, who opted to re-sign with the club, admits that the 1-5 start has been tough to take.

“This is probably uncharted territory for most of us,” VanVleet said. “Just speaking for myself, I’ve never been a part of something like this. … There’s a boatload of problems and we’ve got to find ways to solve them.”

Pascal Siakam and free agent signee Aron Baynes have performed poorly in the early going.

“I think [Siakam] is gonna work himself back into it a little bit more, and I think we don’t worry about it,” Kyle Lowry said. “We can’t worry about him too much. We’ve got to figure it out and all of us come together.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Stanley Johnson has displaced Matt Thomas in the Raptors’ rotation, Bontemps tweets. Coach Nick Nurse wants more size on the wing and has been disappointed in the play of both Thomas and Terence Davis. Johnson, noted for his defense, played 11 scoreless minutes but contributed two assists and three steals in 11 minutes against Boston on Monday. Davis held his rotation spot, scoring 13 points in 17 minutes. Johnson exercised a $3.8MM player option prior to the season and will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.
  • Julius Randle has been the Knicks’ top player in their 4-3 start, and he gives plenty of credit to new coach Tom Thibodeau, according to Steve Popper of Newsday. Randle said Thibodeau’s attention to detail has created a greater focus. “Thibs every day is on us,” he said. “He’s a great leader for us and given us a game plan we believe in every day and we’re coming into every game focused and locked into the game plan of what we need to do.”
  • The Nets are below .500 and won’t have Kevin Durant for as many as four games. But coach Steve Nash sees a silver lining, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. “Plenty to clean up,” Nash said. “It’s early. We can’t lose our minds over it, and we can’t get overly frustrated. … And you know what? It’s good for us. It’s good to get a little tension. We’ve got to get comfortable being uncomfortable, so here we are.”

New York Notes: Ntilikina, Point Guards, Stoudemire, Thibs

Ahead of the first game of the 2020/21 Knicks season, point guard Frank Ntilikina stated that the sore left Achilles that had limited his preseason availability had fully recovered, according to Ian Begley of SNY (Twitter link). Ntilikina, the No. 8 pick in the 2017 draft, also noted that he and the Knicks did not discuss a potential contract extension ahead of Monday’s deadline, as we previously detailed.

The future of Ntilikina, the final lottery pick of former Knicks team president Phil Jackson, remains unclear, as Steve Popper of Newsday details. He will be eligible to become a restricted free agent in the 2021 offseason.

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

  • Reserve point guards Dennis Smith Jr. and Ntilikina would not have made the cut for the club’s 10-man rotation in the Knicks’ season opener, a 121-107 loss to the Pacers, had rookie point guard Immanuel Quickley not gotten injured in the second quarter with a hip pointer, per Marc Berman of the New York Post. Both guards are former top-10 2017 NBA draft picks. Head coach Tom Thibodeau opted to play shooting guard Alec Burks as his initial replacement before ultimately bringing in Ntilikina for five minutes of relatively ineffective play. “We wanted to keep as much shooting on the floor as we can to try to create the opportunities that we’re looking for factored into it,” Thibodeau explained.
  • New Nets player development assistant Amar’e Stoudemire was reticent to make the leap from player to coach this summer after another productive season with the Israeli Basketball Premier League club Maccabi Tel Aviv, per Marc Stein of the New York Times. A six-time All-Star with the Suns and Knicks, the 38-year-old Stoudemire is reuniting with former Phoenix running mate Steve Nash, now Brooklyn’s head coach, and former Suns head coach Mike D’Antoni, now another assistant on Nash’s bench. “We wanted him to come in and share all the things that he learned from his experiences — but also to learn about coaching, video analysis, analytics and the front office,” Nash said. “I get to learn from all departments,” Stoudemire said, “to see where I want my career to go.”
  • Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau is smartly prioritizing building good habits and player development rather than worrying about the club’s win-loss record, according to Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post. “You either win,” Thibodeau said, “or you learn.”

New York Notes: Ntilikina, Rivers, Thibs, Durant, Nets

Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina was one of the 13 players who didn’t sign a rookie scale extension by Monday’s deadline despite being eligible for a new deal, and will now be on track for 2021 free agency.

While some of those 13 players engaged in contract negotiations with their respective teams, that wasn’t the case for Ntilikina, according to Ian Begley of, who says there were no extension talks between the Knicks and the former lottery pick.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Knicks won’t attempt to re-sign Ntilikina when he becomes a free agent in 2021 or that they’ll try to trade him before then. But it appears as if the team is content to take a wait-and-see approach with the fourth-year guard, as Begley observes.

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York teams:

  • New Knicks combo guard Austin Rivers, who has missed all four preseason games due to a right groin injury had yet to return to practice as of Monday and seems very likely to miss the start of the regular season, per Zach Braziller of The New York Post.
  • Ian O’Connor of ESPN takes an in-depth look at Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau, examining Thibs’ popularity among players, his coaching style, and his outlook in New York.
  • Nets forward Kevin Durant will face his old team in Tuesday night’s opener, but doesn’t anticipate added emotions or higher stakes in the game against the Warriors, writes Malika Andrews of ESPN“I feel like each game is important to me,” Durant said. “And it’s no more important to me because I am playing against my old teammates. I just feel like the game of basketball is going to have me on that level anyway and it’s going to be good to see some of my old teammates.”
  • The preseason gave us a preview of what the Nets‘ primary bench unit should look like, according to Mollie Walker of The New York Post, who says the group, led by Caris LeVert, should also feature Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince, Landry Shamet, and Jeff Green.