It’s 20 minutes later New York Knicks finished with a 112-103 Game 5 victory against Miami Heat to add to their streak of semifinals in the Eastern Conference, and coach Tom Thibodeau, dressed in a black suit, sits behind a small table in the press room of Madison Square Garden with a broken smile on his face. Not only did his team find a way to get the success it deserved, it did so in a way that brought Thibodeau back to his roots as a point guard. Jalen Brunson and Quentin Grimes he played every second of the 48-minute game.
The former coach has become the face of the old school of thought. His theory, based on more than three decades in the league, says that players train with heavy weights. So the victory in Game 5 not only gave his team more air in his season, it allowed the 65-year-old coach, who signed a five-year contract with the Knicks before the 2020-2021 season, a defensive platform. favorite spot — many other teams (and players and coaches) have criticized it of late.
“The thing about our team, we have a lot of exercise rats,” Thibodeau said, in response to a question about Brunson and Grimes. “So I know, you give them a day off, they’re in there all day. They’re going to lift, shoot, watch film, so I know that’s who they are. And when you have guys like that, you know. These are the best athletes in the world, so if you prepare yourself to catch that kind of work, you’re going to be fine. You can get hurt.”
This is Thibodeau distilled in his pure form. Even after a 96-92 Game 6 loss to the Heat on Friday, the Knicks extended their campaign into the second round for the first time in 10 years. of the playoffs, reveal the players they believe in the most, and reveal those who have tried to survive so far.
During the recent run of the season, there was a subtle change of guard on the face of the team as Brunson, due to his offensive statistics after this season, became the heartbeat of the Knicks team on the way up. How they can rise now depends on the development of several key players behind Brunson and Julius Randle.
As the Knicks head into a postseason that starts later than expected, they do so starting with three important questions that will determine their future in the Eastern Conference.
Have the Knicks hit Thibs’ ceiling?
New York is at the forefront of Thiobdeauean coaching. After three seasons, Thibodeau just managed the team’s best finish in years — but in doing so he reopened the same question mark that appeared in his previous two stops. Is this as high as this group can go? After leading the Bulls to the Eastern Conference finals in 2011, Derrick RoseKnee injuries in 2012 and 2013 changed that Chicago Bulls groups for years. Despite injuries to several players, Thibodeau got the Bulls to the postseason in each of his five seasons at the helm, but he was fired in 2015.
The story repeated itself during Thibodeau’s two and a half years of coaching Minnesota Timberwolves. After a difficult first season, Thibodeau, with the help of a newly acquired All-Star swimmer. Jimmy Butlerhe brought the team to the postseason for the first time in 14 years in 2018, but Butler requested a trade after the season and Thibodeau was fired a few months later.
Now, the Knicks, like the Bulls before them, have players with the ropes as their coach – willing to do anything to find ways to win. But can he eliminate the threats that have plagued Thibs’ teams in the past? A quick look at the numbers shows Thibodeau’s best teams have similar characteristics.
Thibodeau’s best six teams, starting with Chicago, Minnesota and New York, including this season’s Knicks team, all ranked in the top 11 in regular season scoring, according to ESPN Stats & Information. All six were in the last half of the league in a hurry. None of the six ranked in the top 10 in hitting percentage. Five of those six came in the top five offensive tackles.
They also share perhaps the most important similarity: They have never reached the Finals.
Thibodeau’s teams will regularly top teams, but there always seems to be a shelf to his teams, without top — and healthy — stars.
2. Do the Knicks have the players and assets to attract the underrated star?
Yes, it’s a warning. Recruiting stars in New York City hasn’t been easy (or fruitful) over the past decade. But the goods and players are there. What remains to be seen is twofold: Which stars can be acquired this year, and how many would Knicks president Leon Rose be willing to part with if they happen?
Like ESPN’s Bobby Marks profilewhile the Knicks do not have their pick in the 2023 draft, they will receive it Dallas Mavericks‘ decide if it falls outside the top 10. The Knicks also have their first pick in the next six drafts, including four additional first picks from the first trade. Young hardy like RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes and Mitchell Robinson it can be an attraction for the business community. Josh Hart fit into Thibodeau’s rotation well after the February deal that brought him to the Knicks. Now the organization must decide how much money to pay him back in the future, after deciding what to do with his players. The Knicks have the pick and the players, and Thibodeau, for a while, ruined the team’s reputation.
3. If Brunson is your best player, how far can this team go?
Thibodeau and Brunson quickly found a basketball relationship that blossomed written in the stars. For his part, Thibodeau believes the 26-year-old guard has the ability to continually improve because of what he calls his “successful attitude.”
“When you look at the guys that change from year to year, they’re more dedicated to their work,” Thibodeau told ESPN earlier this year. “The work ethic is there, the toughness is there, the competitiveness is there, the ability to think on the feet is there. And that’s always been his strong suit. He’s not going to impress you with his game, even if he’s good. He’s more athletic than he’s given credit for, I always say he doesn’t look that way, but he’s his share.”
Brunson posted career highs in points (24.0) and assists (6.2) this season, shooting an average of 42% from 3. And, in more than 40 minutes in this postseason game, the second-round pick averaged 27.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 5.6 assists.
“It’s been amazing,” Brunson told ESPN. “This team welcomed me with open arms. The coaches, the players, the staff, everything. It’s been great and I think the best thing is that we always keep working and working, and we want to do that. Keep that attitude. Everyone wants to win here, so we all we have something in common.”
Both Thibodeau and Brunson believe the best days are ahead — and size on the floor is a big key in calculating how good this team can be.
“I just think he’s the right type of guy,” Thibodeau said of Brunson. “When you see what they stand for, that’s what we want our team to stand for. You want the right guys in the organization, you want the right players, what do they stand for? We want a whole team full of guys like that. And I think that’s important, I always feel like that’s what we need more than anything, our first year.” it was a really bad year, we lost, then last year our point guard got hurt … the point guard is controlling and controlling the game and he has brought this to us.”