it’s 20 minutes after new York Knicks must win 112-103 game 5 against Miami Heat to extend their Eastern Conference semifinal series, and coach Tom Thibodeau, dressed in a black sweater, sits behind a small table inside the Madison Square Garden press room, smiles plastered across his face. Not only did his team find a way to win, but it did so in a way that brought Thibodeau back to his roots as a guard jalen brunson And Quentin Grimes Played every second of the 48-minute game.
Experienced coaches have long been the face of an old-fashioned mindset. It has been his philosophy for more than three decades in the league that players train for heavy workloads. So a Game 5 win not only provided his team with some more oxygen heading into their season, but it also allowed the 65-year-old coach, who signed a five-year contract with the Knicks ahead of the 2020-21 season, to defend his The stage for the favorite coaching position — one other teams (and players and training staffs) have cried out for lately.
“Talking about our team, we have a bunch of gym rats,” Thibodeau said in response to a question about Brunson and Grimes. “So I know, you give them a day off, they’re there all day. They’re going to lift, shoot, film, so I know who they are. And when you have people like , so you know they’re ready… these are world-class athletes. So if you prepare yourself to handle that type of workload, you’ll be fine. But if you don’t prepare yourself that way If you do, you could be weak and you could get hurt.”
This is Thibodeau distilled in its purest form. Even after a 96–92 Game 6 loss to the Heat on a season-ending Friday, the Knicks extended their campaign to the second round for the first time in 10 years. But in doing so, Thibodeau, as he has often done throughout his career, shortened his playoff rotation, revealing the players he trusted most, and in turn, exposing those There were those who struggled to live for the moment in the process.
In the midst of this latest postseason run, there was a not so subtle changing of guard about the face of the team as Brunson, thanks to his torrid offensive numbers this postseason, became the heartbeat of a Knicks team in the ascendancy. How far will they be able to climb now that the focus is on the development of several key young players behind Brunson and Julius Randle,
As the Knicks navigate an off-season that begins later than most expected, they do so with three fundamental questions that will determine their future standing in the Eastern Conference.
Has Nix Thibbs Hit The Ceiling?
New York is at a familiar tipping point in the Thiobeduyan coaching cycle. Three seasons later, Thibodeau arranged the team’s best finish in years – but in doing so he raised the same questions that had manifested in his previous two stops. Is it as high as this group can climb? After leading the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011, Derrick RoseKnee injuries derailed his career in 2012 and 2013 Chicago Bulls teams over the years. Despite injuries to several players, Thibodeau led the Bulls to the postseason in each of his five seasons, but was fired in 2015.
The story repeated itself during Thibodeau’s two and a half years of coaching. Minnesota Timberwolves, After a poor first season, Thibodeau, with the help of newly acquired All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler2018 brought the team the season for the first time in 14 years, but Butler asked for a trade after the season and Thibodeau was fired a few months later.
Now, the Knicks, like the Bulls before them, have a roster full of players who are as wired as their coach – willing to do anything to find ways to win. But will they be able to overcome the obstacles that have plagued Thebes teams in the past? A quick look at the numbers indicates that Thibodeau’s best teams have similar qualities.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, six of Thibodeau’s best teams were in the top 11 during the regular season, including this season’s Knicks group spanning Chicago, Minnesota and New York. All six are ranked in the bottom half of the league in speed. None of the six ranked in the top 10 in effective field goal percentage. Five of the six ranked in the top five for offensive rebounding percentage.
They also share perhaps the most important similarity: They’ve never made it to the finals.
Thibodeau teams will work more than teams on a regular basis, but there always seems to be a shelf life for his teams without top-tier — and healthy — stars.
Do the Knicks have the players and resources to lure a disgruntled star?
Yes, with caveats. Recruiting a star hasn’t exactly been easy (or fruitful) in New York City over the past decade. But there are assets and players. What remains to be seen is twofold: Which stars might be available this year, and will Knicks president Leon Rose be willing to part with how much and when it happens?
As ESPN’s Bobby Marx NotesWhile the Knicks don’t have their pick in the 2023 draft, they will get dallas mavericks‘ choose if it drops out of the top 10. The Knicks also have their first-round pick in the next six drafts, as well as four additional first-rounders from previous trades. young giants like RJ Barrett, Emmanuel Quickly, Quentin Grimes And Michelle Robinson There can be lucrative trade options for teams as well. Josh Hart fit nicely into Thibodeau’s rotation after the February deal brought him to the Knicks. Now the organization will have to decide how appropriate it is to bring him back for the foreseeable future after deciding what it will do with its player option. The Knicks have the likes and the players, and Thibodeau has at least temporarily boosted the team’s reputation.
If Brunson is your top player, how far can this team realistically go?
Thibodeau and Brunson immediately found a basketball kinship that appeared written in the stars, For his part, Thibodeau is convinced that the 26-year-old guard has the ability to continually improve because of “winning characteristics.”
“When you look at who are the guys who improve year after year, they have a lot of dedication to their craft,” Thibodeau told ESPN earlier this year. “The work ethic is there, the toughness, the competitiveness, the ability to think on your feet. And these have always been his strong suits. He’s not going to impress you with his athleticism, although he is a better player.” Compared to the athlete he’s given credit for, I always say he doesn’t necessarily look the part, but he is the part.”
Brunson posted career highs in points (24.0) and assists (6.2) this season, shooting nearly 42% from 3. 5.6 helps.
“It’s been amazing,” Brunson told ESPN. “This team welcomed me with open arms. The coaches, the players, the staff, all of that. It’s been great and I think the best thing about it is that we always keep working and working, and We want to keep that mindset. Everybody wants to win here, so we all have that in common.”
Thibodeau and Brunson both believe better days are ahead – and his growth on the floor is a big key in trying to figure out how much better this team can be.
“I think it’s the right type of guy,” Thibodeau said of Brunson. “When you look at what he stands for, that’s what we want our team to stand for. You want the right people in the organization, you want the right players, what do they stand for? We the whole team want people like that. And I think that’s important. I always felt like we needed that more than anything, our first year was a great year, we fell short, then last year our points Guards get hurt … The number one job is to control and manage the point guard game and he brought that to us.”